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ESSAYS ON ART 



FRANCIS TURNER PALGRAVE 

Late Fellow of Exeter College^ Oxford 



ESSAYS ON ART 



FRANCIS TURNER PALGRAVE 

Late Fellow of Exeter College^ Oxford 



C'est i ce lendemain severe que tout artiste serieux doit songer. 

C.-A. Sainte-Beuve 



The Royal Aeademy of 1863, 4, 5 : 

Mulready : Herbert : Hohnan Hunt : 

Poetry, Prose, and Sensationalism in Art : Sculpture in England , 

The Albert Cross, ^'c. 



r^ Of THE '^ 

XJNIVEBBITI 



MACMILLAN AND CO. 

1866 



hm 



~jc 



K' 



darx^l^oavvr) kol appvOfiia Koi dvapfjLOO-Tta KaKoXoyias Kiii KaKorjdeias 
ddeXcftcij TO, 6* ivavria rov ivavriov, (jui<ppovos re kol dyadov rjOovs, 
dbek^d T€ KOL p.LfJLr)fiaTa. — Plato: Rep. Ill : xi 



PREFACE 

During the last five-and-twenty years the criticism 
of Art in England, with one memorable exception 
(to which, whether we agree or not with Mr. Ruskin, 
we are all signally indebted), has been mainly con- 
fined to newspapers. Meanwhile, in France, besides 
more elaborate writings, reviews of the chief exhibi- 
tions of the year are now annually collected in a per- 
manent form. It has been thought that a similar 
attempt might be found interesting at home. Most 
of the following Essays have appeared in the 
Saturday Review, and elsewhere ; but they have 
been minutely revised, and in some cases almost 
re-written. The aim in this has principally been 
to exclude matters of temporary interest, and to 
soften down (perhaps not always with success), 
those asperities of censure, a bias towards which is 
one of the most besetting temptations of anonymous 
literature. 

The main object of the book is, by examples taken 
chiefly from the works of contemporaries, to illustrate 
the truths, that art has fixed principles, of which any 
one may attain the knowledge who is not wanting in 
natural taste, and that this knowledge adds greatly 
to our pleasure, by giving it depth, permanence, and 



VI PREFACE 

intelligibility. The more we test and weigh our 
enjoyment, the more we make it rest upon fact, the 
stronger and the more uniform does it become. There 
is little dispute about the works which really interest 
the human mind. Tastes only differ, or are not matters 
for discussion, as people sometimes say, when they 
are grounded upon arbitrary liking, judgment of Art, 
(if the writer may repeat words which much subse- 
quent study of the subject has confirmed,) is a matter 
which simply resembles other branches of human 
knowledge : a certain natural faculty or bias must 
always be presupposed ; with this, as in case of 
mathematics or of language, taste is obtained by 
study and observation ; and, as in those sciences, 
leads to a practical power of decision. Some few 
strictly technical qualities remain^ on which the artist 
alone is a judge. But this exception does not inva- 
lidate the criticism of spectators. Art, like poetry, is 
addressed to the world at large, not to a special jury 
of professional masters : the technical qualities are 
only means to the public end, and the question which 
remains always is, how far do tRey tend to the object 
of all the Fine Arts, high and enduring pleasure. To 
point out the degree in which a work fulfils this con- 
dition, and thereby to assist the artist in fulfilling it, 
and the spectator in feeling it, is the province of 
criticism. 

F. T. P. 

London : Mar. 19 : 1866 



INDEX 

PACiE 

THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 863 . I 

THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1864 45 

THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 865 . . 89 

MULREADY I25 

DYCE AND WILLIAM HUNT I35 

HIPPOLYTE FLANDRIN I44 

HERBERT'S "DELIVERY OF THE LAW " I5I 

RECENT WORKS BY HOLM AN HUNT 160 

EXHIBITION OF F. MADOX BROWN 1 68 

GEORGE CRUIKSHANK . I77 

JAPANESE ART 185 

SENSATIONAL ART 193 

POETRY AND PROSE IN ART 202 



VIll INDEX 

PAGE 

lost treasures 211 

behnes the sculptor 21 7 

thorvaldsen's life and works 226 

THE FARNESE marbles 237 

ON THE POSITION OF SCULPTURE IN ENGLAND 245 

SCULPTURE AND PAINTING 264 

TRIQUETI's ** MARMOR HOMERICUM " 273 

THE ALBERT CROSS AND ENGLISH MONUMENTAL SCULPTURE . 280 

THACKERAY IN THE ABBEY 299 

NEW PARIS 308 



UNIVERSITY 

ESSAYS ON ART 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1863 



Certain complaints have been made this year on the 
mode in which the Hanging Committee have exercised their 
inevitably ungracious function ; and, although the difficulties 
of arranging several hundred pictures on walls not really 
able to admit one-third of the number should be liberally 
allowed for, yet there is some reason for the remark that 
original merit of the " unprotected " class has been placed 
too high or too low for sight, whilst privilege may have 
asserted itself over-conspicuously on the " line " of com- 
fortable visibility. Having relieved ourselves by this growl, 
let it be added that, " if much be taken, much remains." 
So well situated is the country at present in regard to art, in 
certain directions — so imperative are the claims of several 
artists to a position in which their works can be not only 
paid for as part of a spectacle, but actually seen — that 
it will be found that the Ninety-fifth Exhibition of the 
Academy affords much which may please, and not a little 
which may delight, an intelligent spectator. 

Before taking in hand th^ principal pictures shown, it is 
proper to note certain conspicuous deficiencies in the col- 
lection. Owing principally, we believe, to the pressure of 
other work connected with Art, neither Mulfeady, Eastlake, 

B 



2 ESSAYS ON ART 

Maclise, Dyce, Landseer, nor Foley, is represented. In 
these men we lose some of the most attractive, and some of 
the most original, of our ordinary contributors ; and others, 
from whom we have often, on previous occasions, received 
works of merit — for instance, Phillip and Watts — are by 
no means seen to the fullest advantage. From most of 
those now named we may fairly hope for recompense here- 
after ; but the loss which the English school has sustained 
by the death of Mr. Egg will not be supplied so easily. 
This is not the place for biographical details in regard to 
this justly-lamented artist ; yet it would be an inexcusable 
omission were we to be silent upon all that we have suffered 
by his early removal. The experience of foreign art gained 
at the "International Exhibition," appears to have impressed 
English spectators in general with the knowledge that, in 
some highly important matters, we are unequal to our 
Continental contemporaries. We do not draw so well ; we 
do not hit the point so dexterously ; we are not so skilful 
in telling a tale without the aid of minor bits of humour or 
sentiment ; we do not concentrate the interest of our land- 
scapes with such frankness and facility ; we are more given 
to mere manufacture in our portraits. Now, in some of 
these points, Mr. Egg was amongst the few, comparatively, 
who could best stand the test of French and German compe- 
tition. There was a high and unaffected aim in all that he 
did ; his command over design in the human figure was 
large, and he laid out his canvas with a dramatic power 
which was always increasing in clearness and simplicity. 
If this brief summary of what he was leads any readers to 
do him justice in their remembrance — still more, if it 
should lead some of our existing artists to emulate his 
career — what we have here attempted to perform will be no 
inane munus. But we now pass to the living. 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY Of 1 863 



Ever since his fine '"^ Procession of Cimabue" startled 
us some eight years ago, Mr. Leigh ton has been one of 
the "rising men" of the day in figure-painting. Two or 
three others — as Marks and Calderon — have, during this 
interval, fairly made their reputation, and we find on these 
walls proof that, before any long period has gone by, as 
many more will be " household names " to all who care for 
English art. But Mr. Leighton has embraced a wider range 
than most of his contemporaries, both in the quality of his 
subjects and the size of his designs. He has apparently set 
before himself the lofty but hazardous example of those who 
in the last century were spoken of as the " great masters " of 
the Bolognese school ; and it must hence not be considered 
unreasonable or discouraging if we still have to look upon 
him as a man who has not yet finally completed his style, 
nor secured his reputation. This year, two serious and two 
ornamental pieces display the versatility of his powers, nor 
has he shrunk from attempting three on the arduous scale 
of actual life ; whilst one, the " Ahab, Jezebel, and Elijah," 
appears to be of larger proportions. Excepting (if they be 
exceptions) Mr. Herbert's uninspired and cold, though 
careful " Judith," with Mr. Dobson's sweet but sentimental 
" Return of the Holy Family," Mr. Leighton's is the only 
serious Scripture subject in the exhibition. In the Jezebel 
and Elijah we see that the artist has endeavoured to unite 
the " style " of the sixteenth-century men with that more 
individual rendering of character and more strictly chrono- 
logical aspect of scene which familiarity with the real East 
has rendered, in a manner, obligatory on our modern 

B 2 



4 ESSAYS ON ART 

Scripture painters. In this difficult aim he has not attained 
complete success. The colouring is not free from heaviness, 
owing to the large unbroken masses into which it is divided ; 
the action of the Ahab is a httle uncertain ; and the smooth 
surface of the painting combines with the gloss and newness 
of the dresses to deprive the scene of the air of picturesque 
veracity. But the arrangement is striking ; the lines of 
the Queen's drapery are large and beautiful ; and her head, 
though less original than that of the prophet, is well drawn 
and imagined. Leighton's power in seizing character is 
better shown in the half-length of an *^ Italian Crossbow- 
man " who has, we suppose, registered a vow, sure to be 
kept, to avenge the death of the comrade whose withered 
hand is nailed to the city wall above him. Here the gloomy 
colour corresponds with the sentiment of the scene, although 
the force of purpose is so strongly marked on the archer's 
face, that the artist might have given glow and richness of 
tone to the whole work without compromising its dramatic 
effect. Of Leighton's two ornamental pictures, the larger 
one, a " Girl with Peacock " has an air of brilliancy, but 
strikes us as empty and shadow-like in proportion to the 
amount of w^ork bestowed on it. The " Girl with Fruit '* 
is gracefully drawn, and free from alFectation. 

If the aim of this painter gives him a right, in 1863, ^^ 
the -place of first notice amongst those who devote them- 
selves to figure subjects, the place of popularity must be 
reserved for Mr. Millais. And it will probably be agreed 
on all hands that the distinguished artist has made a nearer 
advance towards resumption of his earlier and more forcible 
style this year than in several preceding Exhibitions. At 
least, the execution of his " Child's first Sermon " is carried 
to a high point of technical completeness ; and though the 
painting of the face, as usual with the artist, is not propor- 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 863 5 

tioned in its thoroughness to the treatment of the accessories, 
yet the hfe, and earnestness, and simple beauty which he has 
thrown into the child's features, render the little canvas one 
which spectators are long likely to remember with pleasure. 
In the " Wolfs Den " the details are not quite so satis- 
factory, and there is evidence of over-haste in the hands 
and face of the child on the right, and in the rather coarse 
patch of light which falls on the bosom of the prisoner. 
We presume, at least, that this little creature, lying so 
demurely on her back, and absorbed in her snowdrop, is 
meant to be the victim of her brothers, who are crying 
"wolf" in different tones of energy from beneath the 
grand pianoforte. One charm of this pleasing work is, in 
fact, the truth with which Millais has apprehended the 
inconsecntiveness of young children — their inability to act 
a part completely, or for more than a few moments — their 
deferential, but imperfect, imitation of the eldest amongst 
them. Thus, here the biggest boy is the leader of the party, 
and the gradations of intelligence descend through the 
child who can only roar *' wolf," to the child who has 
totally forgotten that she is in the den at all. Child's play 
has been seldom more pleasingly represented than here ; 
and there is an originality and look of ease about the 
picture, a power of painting, in short, in which Millais has 
perhaps no rival. 

As a tour de force, Mr. Millais's picture from Keats is 
unequalled in this exhibition. The general to?ie of moonlight 
is given throughout with astonishing power; although we 
must confess to some doubt whether due gradation has 
been observed in the background ; would there not have 
been more of " clear obscurity " throughout the room, 
when the light is strong enough to bring out so forcibly the 
table and its ornaments close to the eye, with the blue and 



6 ESSAYS ON ART 

silver of Madeline's robe ? But a graver question remains, 
when we pass from the surprizing effect of the picture to the 
subject and sentiment which it professes to render. It 
would be but a poor compliment to Mr. Millais to say, 
that it was enough to paint moonlight so magnificently, 
when he has aimed at illustrating a scene of such high 
poetical and human interest as the " Eve of St. Agnes." 
And, in this respect, we must own that his success does not 
appear equal. Nothing but the daring dexterity which the 
picture shows could save it (we think), if indeed saved it 
be, from leaving the impression of ghastliness. Keats has 
placed his scene in winter, and has, poetically, endued the 
cold moonbeams (which, in fact, would take no such splen- 
dour in their passage) with the sun's full power of carrying 
the rich colours of a painted window with them into the 
maiden's chamber. All lovers of poetiy know the splendid 
picture of the kneeling heroine which he thus produced. 
This was, perhaps, a just licence in the artist who has only 
words to paint with. But the artist who paints in colours 
has, with equal justice, corrected the effect, and cast over 
his figure such pale lurid rays as would really have been 
thrown by the moonlight. This is managed, on the hair 
especially, with singular skill. But we must venture to 
urge, that Mr. Millais's amended version of the great Poet — 
and of the great Poet in his greatest work — should have 
stopped here. If the name of " Madeline," and the lovely 
images suggested by the famous lines quoted in the Cata- 
logue, were to be associated with his picture (without 
stopping to require the far minor veracities of mediaeval 
costume and architecture), modest tenderness of expression, 
blending with passionate impulse, and grace of form, and 
beauty of colour, even if subdued, were essential. These 
are the elements of Keats's " Madeline ; " but the images 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 863 7 

called up by the wan face, blackened lips, and blue-stained 
bosom of Mr. Millais's figure, aided by the look of the 
dismal-looking bed, seem to us rather of the spectral order 
than of the maidenly. 

In glided Msirgaret's grimly ghost 

And stood at William's feet — 

Name the picture thus, and it would be accepted as a 
powerful rendering of the old ballad ; and even the coarse 
wrists and attenuated arms of the model, and the inelegant 
details of fringed corset and petticoat-strings, would have 
the appropriateness in which we venture to think them now 
deficient. 

Mr. Millais's children have no equal in the Exhibition, 
except in Mr. Holman Hunt's " King of Hearts." This is 
one of those brilliant little works, true and complete in 
every touch, which we know will speak as clearly to spec- 
tators five hundred years hence, if paint and canvas keep 
together so long, as in 1863. It represents a noble little 
boy who, after the fashion of Reynolds's " Master Crewe," 
is enacting a young Henry VIII, and is about to send his 
china ball with sure aim, under the patronage, like a knight 
of old, of the device (a heart gules^ the old Douglas bearing) 
from which the picture takes its title. The child's eyes are 
full of life and light, and the sunny smile on his face seems 
to presage success. His features and dress, with a lovely 
landscape background, are handled with Mr. Hunt's well* 
known faithful delicacy. Not far from this work in fidelity 
— though different in art and finish — we should place Mr. 
Darvell's little " Orange Girl " — one of the many meritorious 
pieces sacrificed by the peculiar style of this year's arrange- 
ment. In this the child's face, and dress, and attitude, are 
truly, though rather stiffly, caught. It is much nearer 
nature than Mr. Faed's version of a similar subject (273), 



i ESSAYS ON ART 

although it cannot compete, in force and richness of tint, 
with his " Orange Seller." Mr. Clark reminds us too 
forcibly of his popular " Sick Child " by a somewhat blurred 
and morbidly-coloured repetition of very similar models and 
arrangement in his "After Work." Of Webster's contri- 
butions, the aged man seated alone (165) is the most 
original. It has a pathetic feeling, and, as usual with this 
artist, is unaffected in character. In good scenes from every- 
day life this Exhibition is not peculiarly rich. Mr. Horsley, 
in place of the pretty pictures of this nature which at one 
time he gave, seems to have retreated into the dressy, 
artificial period of the corrupt cavalierism of Charles II ; 
and Mr. Faed's cottage interior (213), though a successful 
specimen of his picturesque and spotty manner, has not the 
dramatic interest of his " From Birth to Death," or the 
" Life in the Backwoods," of two or three years back. 
Mr. Martineau's single picture — a girl who has knelt down 
to catch the last rays of firelight whilst she finishes the 
last chapter of some absorbing book (568) — is one of the 
most satisfactory pieces of design and execution on the 
walls : what we rather miss in it is the sentiment of beauty. 
Beside the expression of the young lady's face, thoroughly 
given in its girhsh unconsciousness, the skilful gradation of 
the chiaroscuro^ as the room recedes from the light, and the 
skill with which the cool colours have been harmoniously 
carried into the centre of the piece by aid of the cover of the 
book, deserve especial notice. Another work which may be 
fairly set by this is the " Sailor's Return," by Mr. A. Hughes, 
remarkable for delicacy of feeling, but whose modest canvas 
has not thereby escaped condemnation to the region of 
boots and crinoline edges. Even this treatment, however, 
cannot prevent us from observing the tone and tender 
feeling which Mr. Hughes has thrown into the head of the 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1863 9 

young sister who watches the passionate grief of the lad, 
as he throws himself on the grave of the parent or sweet- 
heart whom he has returned to find missing. The drawing 
of these figures is firm, and the details of the church and 
trees skilfully managed. Mr. Barwell's "Reconciliation," 
wants greater finish, but tells its tale with clearness. The 
grandfather (who hardly looks his age), offended by a child's 
marriage, has been induced to relent towards the now 
widowed mother by the sudden introduction of her child, 
effected through the affectionate ruse of his two maiden 
daughters. The gradations of hope in their heads, and in 
that of the widow, who grasps the hands of one, and looks 
only to her face for indication of what is passing, are caught 
with great dexterity ; and their whole bearing and expres- 
sion is that of true gentlewomanliness. In these points 
this work forms a noteworthy contrast to the manner of 
Mr. Frith, whose lady-figures, as in the " Ramsgate Sands " 
and the "Railway Station," are apt to have the air of 
housemaids in kid-gloves ; or to that of his only too faithful 
follower, Mr. Hicks, in his "Woman's Mission." Yet this 
last gives promise of better things. The dexterity and 
feeling for grace shown will, we hope, be one day carried 
by Mr. Hicks into pictures of a more undemonstrative and 
genuine quality. 

n 

Most of the figure-subjects hitherto noticed belong to the 
domestic class. We turn now to a series — beginning with 
those by bur younger men of promise — which draw their 
incidents from the past, and hence range themselves, more 
or less, in the historical. These works, amongst which it is 
impossible to mention all that deserve notice, by the in- 
creasing evidence of study shown in the figures, and by the 



lO ESSAYS ON ART 

reliance which they display upon the simple setting forth of 
their story, not lesss than by their number, testify to the 
growth of our school in a direction which has not, hitherto, 
been so much followed in England as elsewhere. Our 
national hking for pictures of children and lovers, house- 
hold jests, and drawing-room tragedies, has its good side ; 
yet the art which lends itself decidedly to subjects of this 
range, although popular for the moment, is apt before long 
to lose its hold on the purchasing class, and, by iteration 
within a somewhat narrow and facile field, to relax the 
energies of the artist. The determination to have some- 
thing humourous and something pretty in every picture 
has been the ruin of many a man who, by a wider and 
manlier selection of subject, might have done us good 
service ; and the English addiction to the commonplaces 
of home, has often exposed us to the somewhat con- 
temptuous, though good-humoured, criticism of French and 
German observers. We do not mean that the foreign 
schools of "high" or "historical" art have not produced 
many vacuous and theatrical designs. But it seems to be 
a law of life — at least in art — that no man does anything 
thoroughly well who cannot do whatever analogous work 
stands in the next stage of difficulty above it. The best 
figure-schools produce the best ornament. The best books 
on logic come from metaphysicians. No doubt it is much 
better to paint a baby well than to fail in a Saint. Yet 
he who has made earnest effort to represent the Saint 
will probably paint the better baby — witness Raphael and 
Velasquez, Rubens and Reynolds. Thus, on more grounds 
than one, we rejoice to see the enlarging and meritorious 
band of our historical incident painters, and regret only 
that, for their sakes as well as the nation's, some of the 
fresco-spaces at Westminster were not saved for them from 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 863 II 

less able hands. But we trust that there is still opportunity to 
introduce new blood into the series of Parliamentary com- 
missions. One or two works a-piece by Messrs. Cope, Ward, 
and Herbert, would have supplied ample verge and space 
enough for their powers, and have spared room for artists 
of more capacity for historical work — let us name Mr. 
Madox Brown, Mr. Holman Hunt, Mr. Millais, and Mr. 
Armitage, without exhausting the list, — who have not yet 
gained admission. 

Calderon's " Day of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew " 
represents the interior of the English Embassy, where the 
great name of Elizabeth and the presence of the wise 
Walsingham kept open a single harbour of refuge from the 
bloody storm of persecution without. The Ambassador is 
a well conceived figure. He walks, without raising his 
eyes, across the room where a crowd of retainers and 
fugitives are gathered, in the meditative humour of a brave 
man who must witness the crime which he is unable to 
check. Alarmed women and indignant men, in different 
modes of passion, fill the rest of the State-room ; we see 
that something fearful is transacting below in the street, but 
what it may be is untold except by the expression of the 
beholders. This picture is full of light and air, firmly, 
though drily, coloured and drawn. A few hard out-^ 
lines have been left here and there. Perhaps this is the 
most complete and original thing of the kind exhibited ; 
although the " Parting of Sir T. More and his Daughter," 
by Mr. Yeames, gives promise of similar merits when the 
artist's style is a little more matured. In this carefully- 
studied work, the attendant figures, sympathizing with or 
officially indifferent to the pathos of the situation, are more 
satisfactory than the daughter. More himself, however, is 
well imagined, although the expression of his features — 



12 ESSAYS ON ART 

familiar to us after three centuries in the immortal delinea- 
tion of Holbein — might have been strengthened. There 
is a serious aim, combined with moderately careful work, 
in Mr. Stone's " Napoleon between Waterloo and Paris ; " 
and the features of the French cottage have been well 
caught. This subject, however, and that of Mr. G. Leslie's 
" War Summons/' call for maturer powers than their 
designers have yet reached, although honest attempts at 
a good style, and at themes neither sentimental nor melo- 
dramatic, deserve our sympathy. The latter work repre- 
sents a family group disturbed from a summer afternoon's 
enjoyment on their terrace, by a summons delivered to 
the head of the house to join the campaign of 1485. We 
must own to thinking any real and unaffected bit of 
mediaeval life a better subject for art than the mystic and 
fanciful themes of the Arthurian cycle of legend which 
have been lately selected by some of our painters : 
Mr. Archer being this year's instance. Words can deal 
with a story so unearthly and far-sought more safely than 
colours, which almost inevitably fail when they try to 
render the vague visions of Sir Thomas Mallory's fasci- 
nating prose-epic ; for the romance and the illusions are 
apt to disappear when dragged thus "into the light of 
common day." A true aspect of this " common day," as it 
may have looked in the time of Chaucer, is rendered by 
Mr. Pettie in a cleverly conceived and handled little work, 
the " Trio." Here three W^andering Minstrels of old are 
seen swaggering in comic gravity through mediaeval Lon- 
don, joking with the girls as they pass, yet so penetrated 
with the sense of time and song that one feels they lose 
neither step nor note as they make their transit : cer- 
tainly one of the best bits of humour in the Exhibition, 
though Mr. NicoFs scenes from Irish life — especially that 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 863 13 

of the thirsty wretch who has taken off his " dthrop of the 
cratur," and displays the emptiness of his breeches pocket 
with admirable drunken solemnity — rank with Mr. Pettie's 
work in vis comica. This quality, in Mr. Marks's former 
productions, was apt to run into broad, but effective farce. 
His "Shakspeare studying humours," in some street near 
the Port of London, is handled in a more quiet key. The 
poet's dog is a capital idea ; we commend him, his name 
and pedigree, to the researches of Mr. Halliwell and our 
other industrious Shakspearians, in whose eyes even Shak- 
speare's " second best bed " has a sacred significance. Might 
not his descendants be traced somewhere about Stratford 
or Shottery % The poet's own family are all extinct ; but 
this would be a compensation. — In the other groups we 
see a blending of ranks, not now so frequent within the 
Tower Hamlets— the "ruffling" courtier, the picturesque 
merchant, the demonstrative good wife of Elizabeth's day. 
Barring the locality, the scene might be a preliminary sketch 
for the Wives of Windsor, The painting of this interesting 
work is rather thin and inharmonious, and the sky tint obtru- 
sive. Mr. Hodgson gives us a scene of a different nature 
from the epoch of Shakspeare's youth — the lighting of a 
beacon-fire on the alarm of the Armada (569). The hostile 
fleet, dotted in endless file along a far horizon, is imagi- 
natively heralded by a sunset of that crimson brilliancy 
I which Wordsworth and Turner painted more than once, but 
which is here only sketchily rendered. A crowd has run 
down to the edge of the cliff, led apparently by an 
aged crone, who may be supposed to have prophesied of 
the evil da}^, and now summons the inhabitants of some 
manor-house and village to the accomplishment of her 
vision. Although Mr. Hodgson's drawing is not yet strong, 
there is some vivacity and truth in the action of this group. 



14 ESSAYS ON ART 

and the whole arrangement of the picture, if rather strag- 
gling, is unconventional. The value of this latter quality 
will be felt if Mr. Hodgson's work be compared with Faed's 
"Silken Gown," with its skilfully, but studiously, posed 
figures ; or with O'Neil's " Power of Music," where the dis- 
position is studied but not skilful. The Civil War has fur- 
nished two not dissimilar scenes to Mr. Hayllar and Mr. 
Goldie (628 and 565). Both have selected the execution 
of a Royalist by a file of Cromwellian soldiers, for whom 
our gallant Volunteers have manifestedly supplied the 
models. We think Mr. Goldie's the better painted ; but it 
is more painful and not so dramatically worked out as Mr. 
Hayllar's, in which a child is unconsciously drawing the lots 
of life or death for two Royalist prisoners. The artist 
appears to have lapsed, in his system of execution, into the 
ways of the *' blottesque" school, as Mr. Ruskin named it ; 
we trust he will resume his earlier and more careful 
manner. A French Fishwoman, which he exhibited a few 
years ago, was a capital piece of painting. 

Mr. Armitage appears to be our solitary English painter 
in a class of subject which the French have followed 
with much success. His "Burial of a Martyr" represents 
what may have been a not uncommon scene in one of the 
Imperial persecutions. So far as we can judge from the 
position allotted to the work (below which on the line 
hangs a showy and meretricious picture from the history of 
Bruce), it is most carefully drawn and worked out, and the 
sentiment of the occasion — grief almost subdued by calm 
exultation — truly rendered. This picture would be well 
suited for reproduction in fresco, and may be commended 
to our liberally-minded churchmen as an excellent and 
appropriate decoration for one of the new churches. 

From Mr. Armitage's careful and truly artist-like canvas, 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 863 1 5 

it is a great, and not altogether a gratifying, contrast to turn 
to those of Mr. PhilHp. His style, probably too far formed 
to allow hope for alteration to those who are unable to rank 
him amongst the great, or even the thoroughly satisfactory, 
artists of the day, is well known for picturesqueness and 
force of colour. These are precious gifts ; and, when the 
subject has happened to lie well for the painter's hand, as 
workmen say, they have issued in clever scenes of Spanish 
life ; although life must be here mainly limited to a theatre 
for beggars and flirts, priests and smugglers. On this occa- 
sion, Mr. Phillip has been unfortunate in his larger subject ; 
the upper end of the House of Commons supplying but httle 
which can be classed under the superficially picturesque, 
although he has, even here, made forcible use of the dis- 
orderly boxes and paraphernalia of the table. In the rest, 
he has substituted a lustrous brown background for the 
true, but difficult effects of light and shade beneath the 
gallery and the Speaker's canopy, merging even the heads 
of the less distinguished members in what is, we presume, 
a symbolical cloud of London fog. The nearer heads have 
had just sufficient work bestowed to render them recognize- 
able ; the likeness in each is carried about as far, allowing 
for the difference of the material, as in the woodcuts of 
Punch; but what is enough for a joke or a satire, is below 
the mark of historical painting. Let any spectator, after 
examining this work, place himself at once before the 
little "St. Jerome in his Study," ascribed to the great 
Bellini, and lately added to the large room of the National 
Gallery, and he will, we are confident, at once feel the 
kind of conditions under which a true interior is to be. 
rendered. All good art need not be hke Bellini's in 
style ; but all good art would be as like nature. It would, '^ 
however, be unfair to judge Mr. Phillip- by a picture 



1 6 ESSAYS ON ART 

such as this, produced to order, and in which he has 
consequently not been allowed the artist's indispensable 
privilege of selection. When he treats one of his own 
Spanish subjects, his great popularity, like Mr. Frith's in 
scenes from English life (even if, as we should think, it 
outruns what the facts strictly warrant), is intelligible. 
Women in mantillas, muleteers in rags, a free out-of-doors 
existence and an Andalusian sky, appeal to our sense of the 
picturesque in foreign lands. The "Derby Day" and the 
'* Railway Station " appeal equally to our sense of the melo- 
dramatic elements in common-place life. We suppose that 
those who admire Mr. Ward's historical style, and have 
watched his career from the beginning, would rank him as 
equal in ability with the painters just named. Yet it always 
strikes the younger generation of spectators as curious that 
he should rival them in popularity. For although Mr. 
Ward chooses telling incidents with much skill, yet they are 
chosen generally from the history of England in the seven- 
teenth, and France in the eighteenth century, — times which 
are rather of literary than of popular interest : and though 
there is generally a certain force in his way of arranging the 
scene, yet it seems to us regarded from the external and 
theatrical point of view : giving neither intensity of human 
passion, nor powerful realization of detail : nor are there 
compensating attractions in colour, or in mastery of design. 
In his " Charlotte Corday " Mr. Ward has attempted a 
subject which hardly any power in art could render 
pleasing : and, conscientiously as he has studied the period, 
one cannot help feeling that these decisively foreign his- 
torical subjects are dangerous ground ; that a Frenchman, 
for instance, could not help viewing the scene not only 
differently, but more truly. In his larger picture, " The 
Foundlings visiting Hogarth's Studio," the artist has selected 



I 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 863 1 7 



what the result proves to be a better field for the exercise 
of his inventive powers. The execution is, indeed, harsh 
and grating ; it is almost like wind instruments played out 
of tune ; but the vivacity of the children, and the pretty 
natural action shown in some of their figures, would render 
the design attractive in a print. When this is on hand, 
we hope that Mr. AVard will add more force to the features 
of Hogarth. Many traces of this artist's manner are 
naturally seen in Mrs. Ward's picture — " Mary of Scotland 
giving her Infant to the charge of Lord Mar." This 
work is firmly painted, and tells its tale with clearness ; the 
child is pretty ; and, — if we must have more pictures from 
the history of Mary, — there are few actions in her life which 
we can look at with so much pleasure as the one selected. 
The rather feeble and hesitating air of Lord Mar seems to 
us quite true to nature. It is at least recognized and an- 
swered by the look and gesture of the Queen, expressing 
some natural doubt whether the charge would be loyally 
carried out. 

We have already noticed the most important life-size figure- 
scenes when speaking of Mr. Leighton. Mr. Lucy's " Re- 
conciliation of Reynolds and Goldsmith," like other pictures 
by this thoughtful and conscientious artist, interesting and 
unaffected in idea, does not aim at richness or relief — 
qualities which a painter can, however, rarely afford to dis- 
pense with. Mr. Goodall appears to be making some progress 
towards obtaining them. His " Arab Widow and Child," 
though wanting in the glow and sunlight which put an 
artist high among colourists, and "painty" in execution, is 
forcibly put on the canvas, and the lines are managed 
with grace. Grace would be also the word which Mr. Watts's 
" Ariadne " naturally calls up, although it is in this instance, 
and in several of the artist's recent works, grace too near 

c 



l8 ESSAYS ON ART 

sentimental ism. Except that the colouring is more tender, 
and the drapery more beautifully studied, this Ariadne re- 
calls what were once held the masterpieces of Cipriani or 
Angelica Kauifmann. And the pervading sentimentalism 
may be seen, not only in the languid air and shadowy 
execution, but in the idea of the picture, which converts 
the noble Greek heroine, already half-deified, into the 
fatigued and voluptuous mistress of some ancient tyrant, 
recovering from last night's revel by the shore of the Ionian 
Sea. Not so did the great Catullus paint his Ariadne : — 

Saepe illam perhibent ardenti corde furentem 
clarisonas imo fudisse e pectore voces ; 
ac tuin praeruptos tristem conscendere montes, 
unde aciem in pelagi vastos protenderet aestus ; 
turn tremuli salis adversas procurrere in undas, 
mollia nudatae tollentem tegmina surae. 



Ill 

Landscape-painting, hitherto the most decidedly national 
thing in our art, is less fully represented in this Exhibition 
than figure-subjects — partly, perhaps, from the rapid develop- 
ment of the latter branch, partly from the arrangements of 
this year, which seem to have excluded from the Academy, 
or dismissed to floor and ceiling, the works of our younger 
and less known aspirants. The composition of the Hanging 
Committee, which contained no landscape-painter, may have 
unconsciously tended to this result ; and the fact that it was 
thus unequally constituted has not failed to attract the atten- 
tion of those who aim at a reform of the Academy itself. 
We shall endeavour to do the depressed and the exalted 
artists more justice than they have received at official hands, 
whilst, at the same time, it must be fully acknowledged that 
in no branch of the art have the Academicians done them- 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 863 19 

selves so much credit as in the landscapes which bear the 
respected names of Stanfield, Hook, and Creswick. 

Several small landscapes, by a fused or blended manner 
of colouring, and an aim at general effect of tone, give 
signs of the influence of contemporary French art upon 
our own. Amongst these, none is more successful than 
the beautiful little picture called " Catch," representing a 
boy who, whilst his horse is standing at a brook's edge, 
throws an apple to a village school-girl below (619). The 
colours are uncommonly tender and bright, the grays are 
managed with a skill which all who have handled a brush 
will envy, and every line in the little work shows that fresh 
originality of invention, or that first-hand recurrence to 
nature, which give an unmistakeable air of masterliness to 
landscape. The children and horses, although on so small 
a scale, are studied with a truth and feeling worthy of the 
fine " Landscape in the Campagna," by which the painter, 
Mr. G. Mason, won himself distinction at the International 
Exhibition. — Mr. H. Davis appears to have selected Northern 
France for his field of labour. His '^ Ambleteuse " is very 
happy in its broad diffusion of setting sunbeams over the 
downs and reaches of the Picard coast, so unduly depre- 
ciated by tourists impatient for Paris or Geneva. Here also 
the cattle, driven homeward at evening, are not only as 
carefully drawn as Mr. S. Cooper's, but are coloured with 
a warmth and animated by a life to which those of the 
latter have no pretension. Another capital little work, by 
Mr. C.J. Lewis, presents Ambleteuse from a different point 
of view, giving us the village churchyard with its wild weeds 
and scattered crosses, and the dry, bright flora of the sand- 
hills. A black-robed and veiled nun concentrates the effect 
(373). A fourth example, perhaps less markedly French in 
quality of work than the foregoing, but of much merit in 

c 2 



20 ESSAYS ON ART 

a modest way, is the little " Bird-Minder " by Mr. Dearie — 
a boy very well placed upon a stile., and the crop beyond 
and weeds in front faithfully and tenderly given. We are 
confident that no candid judge, looking at art not through 
Academic glasses, would deny sterling merit to each of 
these four small works, which, however, like the Holy Stairs 
at Rome, are accessible only upon the knees ; and what 
we have seen on many previous occasions of the painting 
of W. Davis of Liverpool, of Mr. Inchbold, Mr. H. Moore, 
Miss Blunden, Mr. Danby, and several more, gives similar 
ground for ascribing merit to pictures of which all that the 
naked eye can discern is that they are pendant, like the 
swallows' nests at Forres Castle, from different " coigns of 
vantage " beneath the ceiling. On the other hand. Whistler s 
effective rough sketch of Westminster Bridge (352), only 
painted to be looked at from a fair distance, has been 
put where effectiveness is lost, and roughness alone visible. 
A nearly similar measure has been dealt to Mr. Anthony's 
" Castle," to Mr. M'Allum's " Forest-scene," to Mr. Dillon's 
'' Nile Sunset," with its beautifully drawn foreground 
rushes, and rosy bars of African vapour; and to what, if 
we could only see it, must be the very remarkable South 
American view, ^' Lagoon of Guayaquil," by a French 
artist, M. Mignot. The misplacement of this work is the 
more to be regretted, from the extraordinary scarcity, 
long ago noticed by Humboldt, of truthful and artist-like 
representations of tropical scenery. Lee's clay-cold land- 
scape, with its flat skies, mechanical foHage, and colourless 
rocks, and the feeble mannerism of Witherington, mean- 
while occupy places to which it is difficult to find any 
better title than the Academical position of the artists. 
Of course, no censure or criticism whatever is due on this 
account to the painters just named, whose productions, like 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 863 21 

all the rest, are under the control of the Hanging Com- 
mittee. But such, in all ages and all countries, is the 
inevitable result of the bad spirit of monopoly. In support 
of our remarks, we must particularly instance Mr. Lee's 
view of the ^' Pont du Gard," where — besides an entire and 
absolute absence of the atmosphere and local tones of 
Provence — the noble ruin is made to look like a modem 
railway-bridge, and coloured in a style which would do little 
credit to a pupil's first year's studies. 

Several landscapes, besides Mr.. Dillon's, are taken from 
the East: the "Well in the Desert" (336), by Mr. W. V. 
Herbert, and the " View in Cairo," in which also the 
figures predominate, by Mr. F. Goodall. Neither of these 
works, however, catches the peculiar qualities of Eastern 
atmosphere. Indeed, the strange intensity of that broad 
sunlight, and the pearly brightness of the shadows within 
streets and houses, are facts so difficult to render, that 
they have been only attempted within the last few years, 
and are probably hardly yet recognised as true by spec- 
tators to whom they are unfamiliar. One creditable and 
clever attempt at reproducing the open sky effect may be 
seen in the little view outside an Algerian village, by Mr. 
Robertson (26), near the floor. This work has that unmis- 
takeable stamp of truth upon it which we noticed above, 
when speaking of Mr. Mason's " Catch." The scarcely less 
difficult phenomenon of Oriental shadow-light has been 
most elaborately and delicately dealt with by Mr. Gale and 
Mr. Lewis. Indeed, the handling of the " Weeping-place in 
Jerusalem " has been, as in other pictures by the same elegant 
pencil, almost overfinished in its minuteness. The figures are 
drawn with great care, and the strange architecture of the 
ancient wall is skilfully discriminated. Mr. Lewis's " Frank 
Halt in the Desert " — substantially a reproduction in oil of 



2 2 ESSAYS ON ARt 

his magnificent drawing in the Water Colour Exhibition of 
a few years back — is wrought out with such subtle truth of 
design, and coloured with a skill so extraordinary, that one 
can hardly help wishing these powers devoted to a subject of 
larger interest. Here almost the whole scene is in shadow, 
yet full of pervading light. If the spectator cares to isolate 
it from its gaudy neighbours, he will find that very few of 
the sunlight pictures exhibited can bear competition with this 
in real inner brilliancy. When will any one do sim.ilar 
justice to the thousand astonishing subjects offered by our 
Indian scenery 1 Two excellent barn-door fowl pictures 
by Mr. Carter and Mr. Huggins (226 and 548), with the 
" Wassail " of Mr. J. E. Newton, are among the most finely- 
wrought and richly-coloured canvasses on the walls, and 
bear all the signs of honest execution. 

Mr. Wolf has two animal designs, exhibiting the well- 
known accuracy and feeling which have given him so high a 
rank amongst our naturalists — viz. "Wapiti Deer," not very 
pleasant in colour ; and the clever and humourous " Row in 
a Jungle." This last is a water-colour sketch in the ante- 
room, representing the tiger taking his walks abroad, ac- 
companied by a vast retinue of monkeys who are swinging 
along from bough to bough above him, shivering and 
grinning, and wondering, we presume, what the royal brute 
will do next, like so many courtiers in attendance on a 
Caligula. 

When such members of the Academy as Hook or Stanfield 
crowd the line, no one need grudge the space, or address 
indignant remonstrances to the Royal Commissioners. 
There is no need to attempt pictures in words of the three 
scenes from the Scilly Islands which we this year owe 
to Mr. Hook— the " Sailor's Wedding," " Prawn Catchers," 
and " Leaving at Low Water." Each of these charming 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 863 23 

works has qualities at once so refined and so obvious to 
common admiration that there is little room for criticism. 
The "Wedding" is, perhaps, the most successful in its 
poetical, yet not unreal, representation of human feeling. 
The " Low Water " may have the most tenderness in the 
sky, and the most of beauty in the green and azure waves 
of the lovely bay between Bryher and Tresco. A want 
of perfect accuracy in drawing the figure (and, in the " Low 
Water," in the proportions of the boat at the pier's end) 
may be observed ; but the freshness and charm of the idea 
and the execution appeal to us (almost too strongly 1) to 
overlook what may be incomplete, before the sight of so 
much excellence. Few, however, but those who have visited 
this interesting group of islands, in many points reminding 
us of the islands of the Aegaean, can do justice to the 
admirable fidelity with which Mr. Hook has caught the 
peculiar features of the little Cornish Archipelago. One 
wide bay, shallow, and hence calm, is enclosed by the 
low green masses of the larger islands ; long peninsulas 
of sand and rock run out into this, and are here and 
there ended by loftier cairn-like hills ; whilst, on the outer- 
most circuit, stretch towering or jagged lines of scattered 
reef, against which the Atlantic beats in almost constant 
wrath. White cottages, like a flock dispersed for feeding, 
are scattered over hill-sides clothed with fern and heath, 
interspersed with gray boulders. Many of these features 
will be seen in Mr. Hook's three pictures, and we heartily 
rejoice that he has transferred his easel to so new and 
picturesque a region. It is by such changes as this that 
poets, amongst whom we class him, renew their strength, 
and fulfil their office of interpreting Nature. But Mr. Hook 
has left much, and that of grander and sterner character, 
as yet untouched. We hope that this summer may find 



24 ESSAYS ON ART 

him employed amongst the strange pinnacles and bulwarks 
of granite beyond the village of St. Mary's, or the wild 
Titanic castle piled beyond the high crest of Bryher, where 
the great bay lies open to the west, and the sun sinks in 
the Atlantic behind vast towers of insulated rock, scattered 
along the horizon like a fleet, and fringed with a white 
girdle of incessant breakers. 

Mr. Cooke's work exhibits his usual precision ; but the 
gorgeous sunset of his Venetian picture (585) is heavily 
coloured. His most remarkable contribution is the fine 
view of " Catalan Bay, Gibraltar," which, for amount of 
natural detail and for careful drawing, probably has no 
equal in this year's exhibition. Here the artist has had the 
courage to take as his central feature a vast slope of sand, 
which runs in a delicate curve from the lofty crag till it 
meets the green sparkle of the sea. The conchoidal rip- 
plings of this sand cataract, with the varied features of the 
cliff, and the magnificent masses of rock which have appa- 
rently found their way to the beach in the convulsion which 
caused the slip, are rendered with Mr. Cooke's well-known 
and almost scientific accuracy. He has been equally suc- 
cessful in the drawing of the boating-gear and the nets 
strewn for drying, which lead the eye from the foreground 
by long and subtle sweeps to the centre. It is, how- 
ever, the weak side of this " topographical " treatment of 
landscape that the interest often fails to be centralized, 
and the minute and hard finish which the artist gives to 
every part of his work, with the almost entire absence of 
charm in colour, rather adds to this defect. Mr. Beechey's 
'^ Bay of Biscay," is a good specimen of firm and careful 
sea-painting : — the dreary drifting waves faithful and im- 
pressive. No seas in motion, however, seem (in point 
of drawing) to equal those which Mr. Stanfield has so 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 863 25 

often painted, and painted with such increasing tenderness 
and truth that the work of his advanced years ranks far 
higher, in poetical quahty, than the admirably drawn but 
rather cold paintings with which his name is generally as- 
sociated. Those fine qualities which placed his "Aban- 
doned" so high are seen in the "Morning of Trafalgar" 
and the " Worm's Head." The latter is a noble rock, rising 
like a tower above the Bristol Channel, on the coast of 
Caermarthenshire ; but the interest of the picture lies more 
in sky and sea than in the Head itself. The light gray of 
the nearer waters (though wanting transparency) is beauti- 
fully managed. Over this comes a dark and troubled sea- 
horizon, and then a haze of drifting rain-clouds, in which 
the approaching shift of the wind is expressed with much 
skill. The "Trafalgar" shows the same breadth. We cannot 
help expressing a strong wish that Mr. Stanfield should be 
employed to paint this or some similar design amongst the 
frescoes at Westminster. It would be mere pedantry which 
would refuse to such a work the title of Historical, in the 
truest sense of that often-abused epithet. And it is diffi- 
cult to overrate the value which such a monument of our 
present landscape art would have, centuries hence, if 
executed in the durable process which Mr. Maclise first 
introduced, and has employed with so much effect in his 
magnificent works. 

Roberts, Creswick, and the elder Linnell send pictures of 
the quality with which they have for many years familiarized 
us : yet it may safely be predicted that, whatever limitations 
in skill must be recognized in their respective styles, their 
absence would be greatly missed. Two Surrey landscapes, 
by Mr. Redgrave (220 and 311), and the "Autumnal 
Evening," by Mr. V. Cole, are good specimens of English 
landscape, delicately felt and painted. The figures in 



2 6 ESSAYS ON ART 

Mr. Redgrave's work are apt to interfere with the general 
effect. We wish that the solemn and glowing " Sunrise over 
St. Paul's," by Mr. A. Severn, had been hung so as to 
permit a comparison with Mr. Roberts's picture of the 
" Cathedral, seen from the West," the best, in our judg- 
ment, of the rather hasty and superficial series by which 
he has lately illustrated river-side London. 

IV 

No one seems satisfied with the present state of English 
portraiture. Year by year we have the complaint, regular 
as May itself, that the Exhibition walls are crowded with 
huge figures of people about whom we know nothing 
by artists about whom we care nothing. Various reasons 
have been given to account for this unsatisfactory state of 
things ; and the cause why the heads of our contempo- 
raries do not strike or please us so much as the portraits of 
people long since dead or forgotten, by Titian, Velasquez, 
or Gainsborough, has been sought in the commonplaceness 
or the inartistic quality of modem dress, or even in the 
commonplaceness of the faces which (it has been alleged) 
are chosen, we presume by some misdirected principle of 
" natural selection," for the express purpose of portraiture. 
It cannot but suggest itself that a much simpler reason, 
which the critic must not veil in silence, may be nearer the 
truth; and that, if heads by the "manufacturers" of the 
day do not please like those of great artists, it is to the 
palette, not to the dress or features, that we should look for 
the element of inferiority. 

It is not difficult to suggest some cause for this confessed 
inferiority ; and although we cannot expect that the steady 
production of a low type of portrait will be checked by any 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 863 2? 

discussion, yet the circumstcinces in which it arises may lead 
to a more lenient judgment on the art than many of the 
pictures themselves would seem to justify. The demand for 
likenesses is immense. But this demand does not conform 
to the common laws of human production, and call forth an 
adequate supply to meet it. For genius is one of those 
elements which are classed, in political economy, as limited. 
Like land, it cannot be increased at our liking. Cultivated 
it may be, but it may also be overcropped. And the truth 
is, that nothing but first-rate genius will produce true or 
excellent portraiture ; and first-rate genius is probably as 
rare, or hardly less rare, here, than it is in other branches 
of art. Nothing can be more false than the notion which, 
from their number, we conclude, is almost as common 
amongst portrait-painters as amongst sitters — that imagina- 
tion and invention are not required for the work. On the 
contrary, portraiture, in the necessary limitations of the 
effect, resembles sculpture in calling for the most intense 
and concentrated force of the imaginative faculty. Any 
clever sketcher may catch enough likeness to be recog- 
nizeable ; for any man who can draw and colour at all can 
produce a face more like the sitter's than anybody's else, 
as we constantly see at fairs and in public houses. But 
such work must not be mistaken for portraiture, in the high 
essential sense of the word. In this, not only should we 
have severity of design and beauty of colour, but the like- 
ness, in common with those which are drawn in words by 
the great masters of the craft, must be one that, in some 
mysterious way, gives not only the man as he may look in 
common life, when he comes into the room or stands by 
his hunter, but the whole substance of his character, the 
" form and pressure " of his mind, so far as these inner 
features are stamped on the outward. We have' seen portraits, 



28 ESSAYS ON ART 

(the head of Sir W. Hooker, by Mr. T. Woolner is an 
example,) executed thus, and so admirably that hardly the 
most intimate friends could remember the presence of that 
one comprehensive look which the artist had divined, but 
which really seemed to render the man's whole individuality. 
In these cases, comparison was possible between the picture, 
or the bust, and the original. But so wonderful are the 
powers of genius that every one may remember portraits 
of those long dead or unknown which left on him the irre- 
sistible impression of similar verisimilitude and depth of 
representation. A head by Titian, exhibited by Lord Elcho 
a few years since in Pall Mall, and the Andrea del Sarto, 
lately added to the National Gallery, are examples which 
many readers will be able to recall. And, coming nearer 
home, we would venture to specify two heads, on which 
we shall presently have more to add, as instances, in their 
degree, of a similar quaUty — the Mr. Preston, by J. Robert- 
son, and the Dr. Lushington, by W. H. Hunt. 

If, however, this standard were resolutely kept in view, as 
in reason it should be, by those who give a commission for 
a portrait, not only would more genius be directed into this 
noble branch of the art, but men of less marked ability 
would be led to do fuller justice to their own faculty and to 
the features of the sitter. Several of those artists, whom 
we cannot praise as we heartily could wish to praise them, 
would, in such circumstances, have produced creditable 
work. We have often wondered why it is not so. It does 
not seem too much to expect that educated and wealthy 
persons should reach, by comparison with acknowledged 
types of excellence in portrait, and by the still more trust- 
worthy and facile comparison with nature, a fair measure 
of judgment in regard to so comparatively simple a form 
of art. Nor does it, again, seem too much to expect from 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 8 63 29 

popular common sense that, when excellence in any branch 
of human industry is not attainable, we should be content 
to do without it. When we have no Milton alive, no sensible 
man wishes to receive an epic from Montgomery. It is just 
the same with fine art. Nothing but a good portrait, which 
is necessarily a good painting, is worth having. But, so far 
from judging thus, the idle, insatiable wish to be painted 
oneself, or to put a likeness of a friend in a public place, is 
so predominant in modern England, that the goodness of 
the picture, without which it is simply canvas wasted and 
features caricatured, hardly seems to occur to the patron as 
an essential point in the business. It is to this cause, far 
more than to any radical deficiency in able artists, to 
modern dress, or to the absence of characteristic faces, that 
we ascribe the manufacturing aspect of the art which the 
newspaper press justly notices. When everybody will be 
painted, public taste corrupts itself and the painter's. 
Commonplace and superficiality become the rule, and with- 
draws attention from really good work ; whilst, besides the 
crowd of incapables who inevitably rush into the field and 
advertise themselves, men born for better things yield to the 
temptations of facility and fashion : — 

rem facias ; rem, 

si possis, recte ; si non, quocunque modo, rem ! 

Who would spend weeks, as Mr. Hunt or Mr. Sandys must 
have spent, on works which, when the name of painter and 
original have perhaps perished, will be looked at with un- 
diminished interest, when they can cover a fathom of 
canvas with a group like Mr. Weston and his hack (34), or 
the two ladies of No. 379, in less time — to judge from the 
slight quality of the painting — than the artists above named 
must have given to the mental conception of their subjects, 
►r to the widely-different, but equally refined and original, 



I 



30 ESSAYS ON ART 

backgrounds of the Dr. Lushington and the Mrs. Rose? 
We know how easy it is to point to the practice of Gains- 
borough and Reynolds, and to say that these great artists 
painted, not only quickly and slightly, but even carelessly. 
The only reply is, that we excuse their carelessness, and 
accept their slightness, because they were Reynolds and 
Gainsborough. And nothing would delight us more than 
that Messrs. Pickersgill, Grant, Swinton, Buckner, Weigall, 
G. Richmond, and O'Neil should furnish equal claims for a 
similar acceptance. 

First-rate portraiture will always be rare, although it is 
only such that is likely to command spectators on the sole 
ground of its merits as art, or that can strictly be thought 
a worthy subject for criticism. But even portraiture of less 
pretensions demands an eye for form and colour, and a 
complete cultivation of design, in which too many fashion- 
able limners are sadly, but it would seem unconsciously, 
deficient. Most people were struck, last year, at the In- 
ternational Exhibition, by the thoroughness which the 
French, German, and Scandinavian artists showed, in com- 
parison with ours : and it is difficult to believe that all 
our popular favourites would receive on the Continent that 
place in art to which they are here held entitled. That 
admirable artist and charming writer, Mr. Leslie, in his 
book for Young Painters, tells a story which w^e may 
appropriately quote. *' A nobleman said to Lely, *How 
is it that you have so great a reputation, when you know, 
as well as I do, that you are no painter ? ' ^ True, but 
I am the best you have! was the answer." It is probable 
that no one who remembers some of Lely's really beautiful 
portraits, as those at Hampton Court, will be disposed to 
rank any one of the artists just referred to wdth the 
English successor of Vandyke. Except as forming part of 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 863 3 1 

a series, as an Archbishop or a Speaker, the portraits they 
exhibit are not likely to arouse the interest of spectators a 
hundred years hence. Yet it would be equally unjust, let 
us add, to apply the " nobleman's " words in their full 
extent. Mr. Grant's " Speaker," though thinly painted in the 
head, and wanting in the attractions and the truths of 
colour, like the same painter's " Lady Fife," is well put on 
the canvas. Mr. Weigall's smaller work, as his " Lady R. 
Montagu," has simplicity in an insipid and conventional 
key of colour. Mr. G. Richmond's *' Rev. H. Venn " we 
think superior in its look of likeness to his "Archbishop 
of Canterbury," which does not escape a certain awkward 
and feeble effect, rarely avoided when a person is pahited 
moving apparently across the canvas. Is it to be ascribed 
to over-haste that Mr. Sant's colouring, never his strong 
point, has lately become not only thin and garish, but in 
some parts quite opaque and ungradated 1 These defects 
go far to balance the praiseworthy attempt at varied action 
and novelty of pose which his portraits exhibit. The 
attempt is not, indeed, always free from some affectation 
and some constraint, but it takes his work out of the common 
range. Mr. Macnee's colour has some of the quality of 
Sant's ; but the lines in his " Lady and Child " are very 
graceful, and the drawing much more careful than is 
generally bestowed on our portraits. 

Messrs. Gordon and Macbeth represent the Scotch 
school, in which the traditions of Raeburn as yet retain pre- 
dominance, with the result of a certain manly power, and a 
marked reliance on deep shadows and indoors effect. The 
^' Archibald Bennett " and " Dr. Cunningham " are good ex- 
amples in this manner of work — grave and forcible, if not 
rising above the atmosphere of the bank-parlour or the Col- 
lege-hall in point of attractiveness. The latter quality has 



32 ESSAYS ON ART 

been more aimed at and attained by Mr. Watts in his highly- 
coloured child's head, " Virginia," wherein, however, the 
sentimentalism of the artist reappears, and in the Lady 
(84) by Mr. Wells. This, though not a painting of such 
promise as the three girls by Mr. Orchardson, which we 
shall presently notice, is the most completely studied por- 
trait of its kind exhibited. The figure is well placed, the 
very copious ornamental furniture of the room carefully 
arranged, the light and colour pleasingly managed, and the 
features natural and unconscious. Perhaps, indeed, a more 
animated look would have improved the effect by concen- 
trating the eye on the principal point. Fenced in and about 
by drawing-room fortifications as she is, the lady appears 
no^N zhTiost 7ninima pa7^s siii. Mr. Wells has also a good 
half-length of Sir H. Ross, which, though rather low in tone, 
appears well drawn and painted. Mrs. Newton's small 
Head (464), has a true charm of colour and expression ; and 
a similar remark may be made in favour of Mr. W. Rich- 
mond's full-length of a little girl (rather hardly hung in the 
North Room), and the pretty " Child on the Rocks," by 
Mr. Eddis. These are the most satisfactory pictures in their 
class. Mr. A. Thompson's portrait (705), is careful and 
life-like, but rather defective in " putting together," from the 
artist's wish to give his work an unstudied air. 

Mr. Orchardson, already referred to, is, we suppose, like 
Messrs. Thompson and W. Richmond, one of our younger 
artists. As such, we hold it to be of good augury that in 
his Group (952) he has aimed, above all things, at a true 
representation of the heads before him, even if the resolute 
attempt not to conventionalize has left the heads in question 
rather set in expression, and given his whole work an awk- 
wardness of arrangement. The large space to be covered 
is probably one reason for the incompleteness of the nearer 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 863 33 

and the most distant portions, as, in the same artist's small 
subject — a Girl Singing — the details are beautifully finished 
in a style which suggests that foreign masters like Plassan 
and A. Stevens may have been studied with success, whilst 
preserving an English character. Mr. Sandys, though, we 
believe, known as the author of some noteworthy drawings, 
must be also reckoned, as a painter, amongst the men of 
promise in whom this Exhibition has been unusually fertile. 
His head of " Mrs. Rose," has struck every one as a remark- 
able example of execution, in which careful drawing and 
characteristic expression are set off to the best advantage by 
significance in the accessories and care in the finish. There 
is a strong tendency to hardness in handling, and to archaism 
of style; w^e trust that Mr. Sandys will not allow these temp- 
tations to divert him from what bids fair to be a career of 
unusual success. Mr. Dickinson has produced so many 
conscientious pieces of portraiture in former years, that we 
class him with the scanty band of those who show merit in 
fulfilment rather than in promise. Of the works which he 
exhibits this year, we prefer the animated " Major Powis 
Keck" to his portrait of Mr. Kingsley, which is some- 
what gloomy in colour and over-weighted with allusive 
details. 

We have already indicated our reason for the high rank 
assigned in this criticism to the portrait by Mr. W. H. Hunt 
(612). It takes this place not by virtue of its execution, 
which is not free from a look of painful care ; nor of its 
colour, which, though very fine in conception, has also 
suffered through its elaboration ; — but by virtue of attam- 
ing the first, second, and third essential in portraiture, 
namely, masterful grasp over human features as the embo- 
diment of human character. Mr. Robertson's full-length, 
which, so far as it can be seen, appears ' worthy to be 

D 



34 ESSAYS ON ART 

classed with Mr. Hunt's work, shows (with no advantages 
in the figure and the dress) a true largeness and power in 
arrangement, which are very rare qualities in this branch of 
art. As an illustration of them, compare the figure with 
Gordon's " Mr. Baird " nearly opposite, or with the angular 
and distracting lines of Mr. WeigalFs "Sir G. Lewis." The 
head is too distant for detailed criticism ; but if equal (as 
it looks) to the general style of the picture, Mr. Robertson 
must be placed high on our list of portrait painters. 
Mr. Holman Hunt's " Dr. Lushington " is fortunately better 
hung. In the colour of the flesh, and in some portions 
of the execution, it betrays (as we have said) the overlabour 
which a powerful and conscientious artist cannot help 
throwing into any form of art with which he is comparatively 
unfamiliar. But it would be a superficial criticism which 
confounded this with the incurable defects of a careless 
or commonplace painter. We cannot expect that the work 
will be popular ; the English spectator has been trained so 
long to admire the easier manner of Lawrence's followers, 
and the " Lushington " is a first essay by the artist in an 
opposite direction. Yet w^e venture to think that it makes 
an epoch in our school of portraiture, by possession of 
those qualities of intensity and severity in style in which 
we have been most deficient. This year's Exhibition has 
nothing equalling it in the power and the refinement with 
which the features have been modelled. Such art may not 
commend itself at once even to those who, justly admiring 
Reynolds, know the vast difference between him and the 
ordinary portraiture of the day ; but the qualities it has 
are precisely those by which the vera effigies of a distin- 
guished man can be perpetuated. Is it not this which we 
want in a portrait ] 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1863 35 



What has been said above on portrait-pictures seems to 
apply, but, unfortunately, with greater force, to portrait- 
busts. In this region, we are truly en pleine manufacture. 
Everything attests it. We rarely hear sculpture mentioned 
without words of apathy or disparagement ; and the empti- 
ness of the room in the Academy shows how little 
hold the noblest of the fine arts has on the mass of spec- 
tators. If in the case of portraits a blind and uncritical 
demand has operated to lower the standard of painting, 
the same influence acts here with so much greater intensity 
that, until diminished, there is no chance for the art. 
Many causes combine to produce this result. From the 
more abstract nature of sculpture, judgment on its merit 
is more difficult j there are fewer typical examples of 
excellence to train the eye; and in England, which has 
never yet possessed a real native school, we have not the 
advantage of appealing to a Reynolds or a Gainsborough. 
Chantrey — who, in fashionable rather than in popular esti- 
mate, holds or held something of this place — was confessedly 
without command over the human form in ideal work, and, 
though the author of some striking busts and some naturally- 
modelled figures (amongst a crowd of what is merely con- 
ventional), he gave a vogue to that practice of superficial 
manufacturing which has, since his time, almost become 
the rule in England. Mr. Noble's work, which has done 
so much to disfigure Manchester, is the ideal of this de- 
graded Chantreyism. With the low level in the art which 
has been established, the natural functions of pubHc judg- 
ment appear to be almost suspended ; our journals, in place 
of the careful criticism which they supply on painting, too 

D 2 



36 ESSAYS ON ART 

often allow each public work in its turn to be announced 
by what is less a review than an advertisement ; and a few 
sculptors, obtaining a run often for no better reason than that 
they have gained a footing among the coteries of Rome, or 
found their way to some noble or mercantile patron, are 
literally overwhelmed with more commissions in a year 
than could be executed in a real style of art in twenty. 
We confidently ask our readers, whether the slovenly man- 
ner in which our public and memorial statues are generally 
turned out does not afford a full and convincing proof of 
the truth of these remarks. Meanwhile, originality starves 
undiscovered, does the work for the fashionable man, or falls 
into negligence through despair. This unwholesome state 
of things is promoted by minor circumstances which must 
not be passed over. It is within the knowledge of those 
who conduct the business, that when any public work is 
on hand, downright personal applications for the job come 
in after a fashion to which painting supplies no parallel ; 
whilst from the nature of the processes in this art, large 
opening is left, as in any other manufacture, for the employ- 
ment of other hands, not only for the final execution, but 
for the first design, than those which the patron imagines are 
stamping his work with its brief immortality. Chantrey's 
famous *' Sleeping Children," in Lichfield, we know now, 
were really designed by Stothard, and any one who takes 
the trouble to compare the sketch and the marble (engraved 
in the Life by Mrs. Bray,) will see that wherever the 
sculptor left his original, he deviated from truth and 
beauty. There is a widely-spread belief, to which we can- 
not refuse credence, that even more liberal appropriations 
have been made by more than one of the most largely- 
employed sculptors in England : and the talk of artists 
names a dozen similar instances in which our Molieres in 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1863 37 

metal have " taken their goods where they could find them;" 
nor do we presume to criticize what is done under the 
sanction of such high authority. Only we ought to have 
Molieres to do the " conveyance," as Bardolph calls it ! As 
it is, one bad statue or bust is so like another, that it matters 
little who is the real author. People unconsciously ex- 
press this : every one can tell whom his picture is by, or 
whom he wishes to be thought the painter; but it is ten 
to one that the owner of a bust does not know the 
sculptor's name. Other causes of depression will be noticed 
hereafter : let us now endeavour, by a plain-spoken analysis 
and comparison of the good and the bad visible in the 
Academy of 1863, to illustrate the general positions above 
stated. 

To take first the scanty contributions to the ideal or 
poetical class. If these present little excellence, it is no 
cause for wonder. When portrait-sculpture is at its present 
low ebb, we cannot have good work in the more arduous 
regions of imagination. Well-wishers to the Academy must 
regret that the sculptor last incorporated should have ex- 
hibited a figure so little satisfactory as the "Ariel " (1044). 
Its style reminds one of the old Annual illustrations to 
" Lalla Rookh," and, with its flying drapery and appur- 
tenances, it makes a perilous approach to the sensational 
tricks of the modern Italian school, which excited the 
wonder of the uneducated classes at the "International 
Exhibition." This artist's "Girl and Dog" (1040) attempts 
that compromise between classical draperies and a modern 
portrait which has been so often attempted with no better 
success. Mr. Durham's models of "Africa" and "America" 
are careful specimens in that commonplace manner which 
is to high art what Mr. Edmund Reade's verse is to high 
poetry — "most tolerable and not to be endured." They 



38 ESSAYS ON ART 

form part of the "Monument to the Exhibition of 1851," 
and raise melancholy anticipations (since only too well 
realized) regarding that latest product of the Horticultural 
Gardens. Mr. Leifchild's two Scripture statuettes (1038 
and 1 041) show the wish to recur to a better standard. 
Echoes of Flaxman, and of those whom Flaxman studied 
with such admirable results, are discernible in the drapery 
and arrangement. There is good intention here, which we 
hope may ultimately lead to corresponding performance. 
Miss Durant's "Shepherdess," though revealing the same kind 
of study, is took weak to encourage such hopes. To copy 
Phidian style is simply damaging, unless the artist have 
first mastered that which made Phidias great — knowledge 
of human form. The " Margaret," " Head of Mirth," and 
" Maternal Affection," by Messrs. Birch, Hancock, and Pap- 
worth, have each pleasing features in their different ways, 
and, though not carried far in execution, or exhibiting 
severity of study, contrast favourably with the " Ariel " above 
noticed. Mr. Philip's basso and alto reliefs do not rise in 
any respect above the quality of mere "architectural" 
sculpture, such as is turned out to order for our new 
churches by several well-known firms, and ranks as deco- 
ration rather than as art. They are rude and yet tame in 
modelling; the heads and draperies are poor and unlike 
nature. The larger series looks, in fact, like a rearrange- 
ment from West's scripture designs ; it resembles a bad 
picture modelled in relief, rather than a piece of sculpture. 
Yet this work has actually been commissioned for St. 
George's Chapel at Windsor ! Surely a building of so much 
national interest might have been spared the intrusion of such 
weak and inartistic decoration. The prevalence of cheap 
mason's work in carving, more or less, in this style, which 
is particularly common in Mr. Gilbert Scott's buildings, does 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 863 39 

serious injury to the cause of Gothic in England, and justifies 
the sarcasms of those who decry it as ineradicably mediaeval. 
On the opposite wall, but unfavourably placed for the light, 
is another scriptural subject, by Mr. Redfern (1069), which 
though stiffly modelled in parts, shows some originahty. 
A pleasing and delicate alto-relief of a child, by Mr. D. 
Davis (1089), may be also noticed here, its treatment giving 
it a fair place among poetical designs. 

From the small display in sculpture of ideal aim, we turn 
to the formidable array of busts, not without a sense of 
discouragement at the results which the low status of the 
art, already discussed, inevitably stamps on its annual 
manifestations. How can we expect many good works, 
when we all confess that the school is feeble % One's criti- 
cism here must necessarily be fault-finding, from the simple 
fact that not one bust in fifty has been executed by an 
artist really entitled to the name of sculptor. A thorough 
bust, like a thorough portrait, should, first and last, bear on 
its front the unmistakeable rendering of human character. 
This can only be given by the genius of the sculptor. To 
catch it is his secret ; but the material ways which he has 
of expressing it are within our analysis. He is, properly, 
without the resource of colour ; and we are glad to see that 
Mr. Gibson's paradoxical attempt to blend two distinct arts 
has hardly shown itself in this Exhibition. Without colour, 
however, form is the sculptor's only vehicle — form brought 
out by light and shade, the absolute contour by that which 
the background supplies, all the rest by the variety of sur- 
face which he gives to the material. The phrase, " breathing 
marble," rarely realized as it is in modern work, expresses 
exactly the lifelike look which surfaces truly modelled and 
textures truly rendered — as the tense or the soft masses, 
the skin drawn closely over the bone or* undulated by the 



40 ESSAYS ON ART 

muscles, the hair and the drapery — always give. An infinity 
of half-tints, arising from truly followed subtleties of curva- 
ture and planes of surface, is an unvaried accompaniment 
of first-rate work, and an easy test of its presence. Sculp- 
ture, having only these modes of doing its task, must not 
claim to be judged successful unless they are practised, 
which, it will be obvious, will not be unless the sculptor has 
not merely made a rigorous and accurate study of human 
form, but is able and willing to finish his marble with 
thorough care — putting in a thousand fine touches and 
delicate planes, which only tell in the general effect, whilst 
he refrains from the easy but coarse and inartistic expedients 
that strike an ignorant observer. 

We are justified in trying sculpture by its own high 
standard, not only because the essential conditions of the 
art are severe, but because, unless they are complied with, 
from the absence of subsidiary modes of attractiveness, it is 
an art which gives little pleasure. A commonplace bust is 
the least agreeable of all works of art. But very few of those 
. before us can be said to rise above this level. Such heads 
as the " Mr. Hallam " (1054) — so awkwardly sawn, in a 
block, as it were, out of Mr. Theed's bad figure of that great 
man in St. Paul's, and here placed, with the same defective 
taste which that statue exhibits, on a pile of quartos — the 
" Lord Herbert " (i 165), the " Lord Elgin " (1059), with the 
full-length "Lord Lonsdale" (1013), are samples. With these 
we must class Mr. Philip's feeble recumbent figure of Lord 
Herbert, which does not rise above what has been called the 
" New Road style," and presents an unfortunate piece of 
archaism in the baby angels, if such be their meaning, 
which flank the pillow. This imitation of early art is not 
less puerile in sculpture than we all feel it to be in painting. 
More directly unpleasing, because more violent and angular 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 863 4 1 

in style, are two military busts by Mr. G. Adams (10 19 and 
1 197), which grapple so ineffectually with the exigencies of 
the uniform^ moustache, &c. that they look more like 
caricatures on the profession than monuments to the gallant 
originals. These heads are by the same hand as the 
Napiers of Trafalgar Square and St. Paul's, which have 
awakened such loud protests from the press, and should 
have served as a deterrent to patrons. Nor can we assign 
higher rank to the " Col. Gladstone " by Mr. A. Munro. 
This is throughout defective in the modelling. What anato- 
mists term the " osseous structure " is here apparently absent 
from the upper face and forehead, which rise and fall in 
vague undulations, whilst the neck and jaw are blank sur- 
faces. Hence the bust equally lacks firmness in the frontal 
region, and the air of mobility in the flesh. The eyes, 
which perhaps present the greatest difficulty to the sculptor, 
in this and in Mr. Munro's other busts, are without character 
or life. The " General Shirreff " resembles the military heads 
by Mr. Adams, above noticed. Mr. Lough's " Captain " has 
more force, but the hair again has been a difficulty which 
the artist could not fully conquer. It here rises into horns, 
which remind one of those given to the Satyrs of ancient 
art. The treatment of this feature is, indeed, the most 
recurrent crux of our sculptors. If conventionalized, one 
point of the likeness is sacrificed ; if realized without taste 
or style, it is apt to give a vulgar air — witness the " Mr. 
Marshall," in which there is some clever effectism. We give 
the quality this name, because " effect " may be better 
reserved for that which is obtained by legitimate means 
of art. Here, as in M. Marochetti's heads generally, the 
features are made to tell, not by truth or subtlety of 
surface, but by suppressing all minor details in favour 
of those points which first strike the eye; and then by 



42 ESSAYS ON ART 

opposing to the flesh a coarse and heavily-handled mass of 
drapery. The drab-coloured surface, the marking of the 
eyes, the colour thrown in here and there, are all ingenious 
tricks of the same kind : expedients for concealing the 
absence of the ever-recurring necessities of sculpture — 
mastery over form, insight into character, and power to 
put them into marble. 

Some true sculptural spirit is shown in the heads by 
Messrs. Megret and Evey (1172 and 11 84). They may be 
compared with the terra-cotta by J. E. Boehni (1175), which 
greatly exaggerates the "picturesque " mode of treatment, — 
allowable within certain limits in this material. The little 
statuettes by the same modeller are similar in manner to the 
" Mr. Marshall " just noticed, and, hke it, belong to the class 
of work in which dash and cleverness are substituted for 
style and accuracy. We trust that this artist will not be 
satisfied with the comparatively facile and slight reputation 
of the successful sketcher. Mr. W. Davis's " H. Owen," 
Mr. Lawlor's head of a boy (1154), Mr. J. A. Miller's " Dr. 
Cureton," and Mr. Butler's " Jacob Bell," may be instanced 
as pieces of sound, unshowy work. The latter, perhaps 
owing to the subject, is not throughout equal to other 
busts we have seen from the same conscientious and able 
artist, though the drapery is perhaps the best executed bit 
of the kind here exhibited. 

Sculpture has at no time numbered many successful 
followers amongst women. We have, however, in Mrs. 
Thorneycroft, one such artist who, by some recent advance, 
and by the degree of success which she has already reached, 
promises fairly for the art. Some of this lady's female busts 
have refinement and feeling. We think " Mrs. Wallace " 
the best which she now exhibits ; it is sweet and truthful 
in air. This work, however, with all the rest in marble 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 8 63 43 

which the imperfect lighting of the rooms has enabled us 
to examine, yields in general excellence to the truly noble 
bust of Mountstuart Elphinstone, which we owe to an 
artist who has given us formerly many first-rate portraits, 
Mr. Behnes. Those who care to test the grounds of the 
foregoing criticism, and ascertain whether there are reasons 
of fact for determining what is good or not good in sculp- 
ture, should examine this head, in which, as a posthumous 
likeness, it may be supposed that the artist had to meet 
the maximum of difficulty. And yet with what ability 
'las he met it ! Here the elementary requirements — life- 
like appearance and individuality of character — have been 
fulfilled in a degree which would strike even the casual 
observer ; and when the work is examined in detail, it will 
be found conformable to the more strictly artistic require- 
ments before indicated. It is modelled with firmness, 
accuracy, and delicacy ; the many planes and fine flexures 
of the human face are carefully followed ; and hence some 
measure of that air of mobility and lightness — life, in one 
word — is imparted, which we all recognize, but are not often 
called on to recognize, in modern sculpture. The manage- 
ment of the hair and modelling of the neck may be noted 
as special points of merit. This combination of truthful 
treatment (for into truth goodness in art always resolves 
itself ) gives the w^hole, although in some points the highest 
standard has not been reached, that indefinable quality 
which is often spoken of as " style," and renders it an 
excellent standard of comparison. 

Now, if from Mr. Behnes' bust we turn to its neighbour, 
by Mr. Marshall Wood, we shall be aware that the criticism 
which applies to the " Elphinstone " would be quite inap- 
propriate if applied to this representation of the Prince of 
Wales. Indeed, there could hardly be a more marked 



44 ESSAYS ON ART 

contrast. We are aware that plaster never does complete 
justice to marble ; yet, making full allowance for this, and 
for the difficulty of a colossal size, Mr. Wood's work must 
be ranked among the least successful and least promising 
productions here displayed. Putting aside all points of 
mere taste, and keeping to obvious facts, it is through- 
out heavily and unfeelingly handled. The modelling of the 
finer details (the upper lip, which appears confused with 
the moustache, the ears, and the hair, may be instanced) 
resembles a pupil's rather than an artist's performance ; 
while the drapery, broken into ungainly and distracting 
angles, strikes us as a peculiarly unfortunate compromise 
between the real and the ideal, having neither the grace of 
the one nor the significance of the other. In short, much 
as one would prefer to find so interesting a subject worthily 
handled, it is impossible not to see here a bust with no 
claim to spirit, veracity, or sculpturesque style. Royalty 
in England, from the days when Reynolds was rejected for 
West, has been rarely fortunate in selecting its Apelles or 
its Lysippus. No artist, to our thinking, did half justice to 
the Prince Consort whilst he was still ours. It is not im- 
possible that the almost official obsequiousness with which 
our journals generally eulogize likenesses which appeal so 
strongly by their mere name to Englishmen, may be partly 
responsible for a misfortune which we are now unable 
to remedy. And if Mr. Marshall Wood's bust of the Prince 
Consort's son had not already been greeted with this cloud 
of deferential incense, we should have gladly passed it 
over in the silence which, when a conspicuously bad case 
is in question, may be often the most expressive comment 
on a failure. 



45 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1864 



One's first impulse, when the Trafalgar Square doors open 
and the chief pictorial harvest of the season displays itself 
to the crowd that rushes in, all eager and some anxious, 
is to compare at once this year's with last year's Exhibi- 
tion. This impulse is so common that most of the journals 
which give a notice on the Saturday of the private view 
make the comparison in proper form. And it is natural 
that the verdict thus framed, with a crowd of fresh bright 
things before one, the eyes not yet satisfied with seeing, 
nor the ears dinned with the gossip of dinner-tables 
and drawing-rooms, should almost always be in favour of 
the show of the year. Rumour, also, during this winter, 
prepared us for a good gathering. It was likely that the 
Academicians, rather severely handled in the evidence 
given before the Commission and in the reviews of last 
year, would put forth their strength and justify their good 
places on the line ; and whether they should do so or not, 
the Exhibitions of 1862 and 1863 showed that there was a 
new rising school of younger artists determined to prove 
themselves fit for public honour, and anxious to vindicate 
for English art that higher style and greater breadth of 
subject in which, it was felt, foreign artists had gained an 
advance upon our insular security. 

We are not going to dispute the fulfilment of the 
pleasant view which we were thus invited to take by antici- 
pation, and which most of the oracles that have hitherto 



46 ESSAYS ON ART 

spoken appear to confirm. But it may be proper to point 
out, before beginning our survey, that the difficulties which 
seem to us to make the comparison between one Exhibition 
and another arduous, if not rash, after a first hasty and 
crowd-hampered view, do not much diminish even after 
frequent and careful explorations. This summer's thunder- 
storm, do w^hat we may to gain an impartial estimate of 
it, inevitably seems louder than last summer's ; and the 
oldest inhabitant of the parish will always confirm the 
opinion. So the fine things of former Royal Academies 
have passed from our eyes, and are, perhaps, too often 
remembered through a mist of confusing and trivial criti- 
cisms, or the caricatures of wood-cuts and bad coloured 
copies in the popular illustrated papers. Meanwhile, the 
efforts which some three or four hundred hard-w^orking men 
have been making, during a twelvemonth, to please and 
edify us, appeal for judgment rather on their own merits 
than by w^ay of comparison with standards no longer in 
view. At the most, wdthout trying to weigh the harvest of 
1864 against that of years immediately preceding, it may be 
safe to point out what appear to be cases of improvement, 
and to say that this Exhibition gives fair grounds of con- 
fidence, and just cause for pleasure, to those who watch the 
progress of English art with affectionate interest. There is, 
certainly, more soundness than greatness displayed. Some 
few men do not show the advance that had been hoped for. 
Some popularities are injuring the cause of the art with the 
public, and some with the artist. Others, again — and we 
may here, not to the exclusion of names which we shall 
hereafter notice, specify Sir Edwin Land seer, Mr. Armitage, 
Mr. Marks, and Mr. Whistler — delight us with a marked 
step forward, even beyond former merit. And it may 
probably be said with truth that, if the painstaking study 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 864 47 

of fact is not sufficiently represented, there is a greater 
attempt than heretofore to try fresh ground, and especially to 
escape into more varied and more intellectual regions from 
those easy vices of the English school — the pinafore and 
sentimental styles in figure-painting, with the cow-in-the- 
meadow and purling-brook species of landscape. These 
remarks refer, of course, to the oil-pictures. The water- 
colours, miniatures, chalk-drawings, and architectural designs 
shown are all lying in the cold shade from which, until 
the Academy is properly lodged, they are little likely to 
escape. And the sculpture-room not only exhibits an 
absence of good work which we believe to be unprece- 
dented, at least for many years, but contains even more 
than usual evidence of the deplorable condition to which 
ignorant patronage and popular apathy have brought that 
noble art in England ; whilst the fair and satisfactory 
arrangement which on the whole, though not without ex- 
ceptions in landscape, marks the picture-gallery, is totally 
wanting in the department consigned, we presume, to 
Mr. Weekes. 

On all this, more hereafter ; sine odio et affedu, but with 
such plain speaking as can alone render any attempt at 
criticism worth a moment's attention. But, before estima- 
ting our gains, a few words must be also given to our 
losses. Last year we prefaced our review with a short 
notice of what English art had been deprived of in the 
death of Mr. Egg. We shall not attempt to do the same 
for Dyce and Mulready. Without comparing these eminent 
men — whom death, if he has not equalized, has withdrawn 
from the noise of human rivalries — ^we may at least add 
that they were not such as we could easily afford to spare, 
or expect to see soon replaced. We have not even the 
melancholy pleasure, which the Water-colour Exhibition 



48 ESSAYS ON ART 

affords in the parallel case of William Hunt, of seeing any 
last expression of their art on the walls of the Academy. 
And with them we find the names of Maclise, Foley, Frith, 
Frost, Herbert — with those of Holman Hunt, F. M. Brown, 
W. Davis, Inchbold, and other good men and true, absent. 
Some of these artists have been engaged on public works. 
Some have, perhaps, not met with favour in the eyes of the 
Committee of Arrangement. Watts, Ward, and Gibson, 
again, whatever their respective abilities, are insufficiently 
represented ; whilst Millais, though fully preserving the 
place which, for better and for worse, he has latterly taken, 
has reserved for another year his powers of astonishing us, 
and gives even the pleasure which he rarely fails to afford 
after a somewhat monotonous and superficial fashion. But 
we now turn to the long series of figure-painters, beginning 
with those whom, on different grounds, it is difficult to 
bring under any classification. 



Amongst the half-dozen pictures here exhibited which 
we should be inclined to range highest, looking to their 
merits in thought or in design, a fair claim for admit- 
tance may be made by Mr. Armitage's " Ahab and Jezebel." 
It is not, however, in the execution, technically speaking, 
that its superiority lies. The drawing, although accurate 
and refined much beyond English wont, and this on the 
life-size scale, has an air of Academical style ; and the 
colouring, perhaps from the artist's frequent practice in 
fresco, or from his training in the great French school of 
mural decoration, wants power and richness. But the scene 
is dramatically conceived and the expression is fine and 
unforced ; the details are wrought out with correctness, yet 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 864 49 

without archaeological pedantry, and the whole has that 
general air of completeness in training (so far as form is 
concerned), which is, unhappily, so uncommon in English 
art, that Mr. Armitage has been long vainly spending his 
ability in the effort to gain fair recognition. Jezebel leans 
over Ahab, who is stretched on a long couch ; his face 
expresses indecision, but the reverted eye, like that of a 
vicious horse, has already conceived the set purpose of 
mischief, aroused in him by the promises of the wicked 
queen behind him. The action is powerful and skilfully 
imagined in itself; but the group would have gained con- 
siderably in force had the two figures been brought into 
greater nearness. We do not think that modern painters, at 
least in England, sufficiently feel that two figures, in any 
dramatic scene, require in some degree to be treated like a 
group in marble, and that the concentration of lines may 
be here brought, with great advantage, under the laws 
which render it imperative in sculpture. We shall meet 
with Mr. Armitage again, and again highly to his credit, in 
portraiture. Let us once more express d hope that some of 
our many liberal patrons of church architecture may select 
his pencil for mural decoration. There cannot be a greater 
error than the employment of a mere decorator in colour or 
stone, whether his style be the flowing or the angular, to 
give completeness to a building. Such work may, indeed, 
harmonize sufficiently with the commonplace design and 
imitative details of a mere fashionable architect ; but any- 
thing less thorough than the painting of Mr. Armitage is 
fatal to the effect of those amongst our modem churches 
which are marked by the noble feature of originality. 

Mr. Watts, who by some of his works has put in a claim 
to rank amongst our decorative artists of the larger order, 
does nothing to support it by the design which he now 

E 



50 ESSAYS ON ART 

contributes. His allegorical group of " Time and Oblivion," 
although drawn in a large, if a somewhat loose and extra- 
vagant style, seems to us an utter failure in expressing its 
story, and is, besides, encumbered with accessories which 
suggest the direct antithesis of the sublime. Time, to whom 
youth, here given by the artist, has no greater propriety as 
an attribute than old age, appears to be dragging Oblivion 
along as his prisoner, and is about to plunge with her into 
a vast gilded semicircle, which may be taken, w^ith equal 
probability, for the Sun or for Eternity. As a real master in 
tender colouring and admirable delicacy of touch, Mr. Watts 
does his gifts better justice in the beautiful girl's head, 
named " Choosing." Surely a work like this, with the 
many charming specimens in the same style which we have 
received from the artist, may be admitted as evidence in 
what directioii his genius really lies, — not force, thought, 
imagination, but refinement, grace, and fancy. It is his 
work in the latter manner, which will, at any rate, be pre- 
ferred by all the w^orld to his attempts in the " terribil via " 
of life-size allegory. 

Perhaps the unusually interesting pictures which Mr. 
Leighton has sent suggest some lesson of a not dissimilar 
nature. He is, at least, most successful at present in w^ork 
which, although above mere ornamentalism or sensuous- 
ness, yet is not of the strictly historical character. Such is 
that fine group — a youth at the harpsichord, watched by a 
girl with an intensity of gaze which w^e feel, but cannot see 
— felicitously named '' Golden Hours," which will remind 
some spectators of those eight exquisite lines by Shelley 
which Mr. Savage Landor prefers to all the Elizabethan 
lyrics. Although labouring under a double disadvantage — 
that w^e do not see the girl's face, and do see the youth's, 
which is feeble and voluptuous — Mr. Leighton has thrown 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 864 5 1 

such an atmosphere of music over his picture, that it 
" vibrates in the memory " like Shelley's stanzas. We fear 
that the accomplished artist may not think it praise if this 
design be preferred to his two other pieces. The *' Orpheus 
and Eurydice," beautifully as Eurydice is drawn, and ably 
as the intended expression is given to the hero, strikes us, 
however, as not equal to the elevation of that wonderful 
legend. The human struggle and the human features are 
alone brought forward ; it is rather a mythe vivant than the 
sublime agony from which, even in the late narrative of 
Vergil (let us throw off the barbarous mis-spelling of the 
poet's name !) all traces of the divinity of the actors have not 
disappeared. The smoothness of execution and academical, 
rather than natural, arrangement of the drapery to which 
occasionally Mr. Leighton shows a leaning, are also rather 
prominent in this picture. 

The " Dante in Exile," as a piece of refined drawing (with 
some little mannerism, perhaps, in the proportions) and of 
carefully studied attitude and character, finished to the best 
of the artist's manner, has little to fear from English rivalry. 
This subject was a noble one to attempt, and we are 
glad that Mr. Leighton has had the courage to undertake it. 
Only we could wish he would take it up again, and then 
give us (as he assuredly might), not the mask of Dante 
placed on a stiff and unimpressive form, but the poet in his 
stern vitality. There are several skilfully devised points of 
by-play as the poet passes from the palace steps amongst a 
crowd of courtiers and servants, and the veracity and 
interest of the scene are not impaired by the objection raised 
by some unpoetical critic, that the known facts of Dante's 
life do not record this scene of mockery. He must, how- 
ever, have endured it ; or how should those immortal lines, 
in which the very extremes of tenderness "and bitterness 

E 2 



52 ESSAYS OX ART 

touch with almost overwhelming power, have been written 
by the most realistic of poets ? 

A foreign artist, M. Legros, may be lastly mentioned 
among the life-size figure-painters. His *' Ex Voto," a iady 
offering up prayers before a memorial tablet on the edge of 
a wood, with some religious women and a servant attending, 
has a look of reality and a powerful daylight effect which 
even the height at which the picture has been placed cannot 
efface. It is probable that, if nearer to the eye, some 
feebleness in drawing and an over-naturalism of expression 
amongst the heads would be found ; and it was surely a 
mistake in art to use actual gold on the votive tablet. But the 
whole effect, as we have said, is very striking, and the painter 
seems to have skilfully combined unity of feeling in his 
worshippers wdth diversity of attitude and expression, with- 
out overstepping the modesty of nature. We shall hope to 
see M. Legros again in a less unfavourable position. 



II 

Among the older figure-painters belonging to the Academy, 
the loss of Mulready for first-rate rendering of common life 
in its humourous and poetical aspects, and of Dyce for the 
intellectual conception of his subjects, seems Hkely to be 
long felt. Mr. Elmore hardly comes up to the power shown 
in his " Lucrezia Borgia " of last year by the return which 
he makes now to his favourite painting-ground, the cloister. 
*^ Within the Convent Walls," although not so brilliant an 
opportunity for colour, is however a pleasing and graceful 
work, and painted with a greater completeness than the 
artist showed in former days. The avenue to the left, 
where nuns are walking in chequered shade, strikes us as 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 864 53 

the successful bit of this work. In the life-size figure, 
Excelsior,' Mr. Elmore, whilst exhibiting the same com- 
mand of the brush on a larger scale, has been hampered at 
once by the weak sentimentalism of the ballad and by the 
selection of an inappropriate model. An Italian youth is 
here seen rather vaguely stepping upwards through a studio- 
snowstorm, seriously impeded in his course by a banner 
bearing that familiar dog-Latin inscription to which young 
ladies, looking more to the idea than to the grammar 
of '* Excelsior," are so partial. Mr. Elmore's picture is, 
however, preferable to Mr. Cope's ^' Contemplation," whose 
overwrought expression and theatrical air might qualify her 
to act as Mr. Longfellow's " interpreter " for the ballad 
above in question. The boy studying in the country for 
university honours (335), is a more favourable specimen 
of Mr. Cope's art — although the effect is rather thin and 
garish, and the room overcrowded by tempting apparatus for 
studies in a contrary direction. A second class, we hope, 
is the highest ambition of the parents. Mr. Dobson seems 
to us to show some advance this year towards a larger style. 
While prettiness holds, as it always will hold, its place in 
art, we can hardly ask for prettier faces and attitudes than 
his two fair damsels with their flowers and their book (4 
and 265). The former is almost as bright as the child with 
the story-book which did Mr. Dobson credit in the Inter- 
national Exhibition. A love-scene by Mr. F. R. Pickersgill 
(123), and "Jane Shore," by Mr. Redgrave, belong to this 
division of our survey ; and here — as Royal Academicians 
are before us — we may place that cenfo from the old masters 
which Mr. G. Richmond names "The Measure," from 
Milton's Comics. Figures from Titian and Poussin, mis- 
applied and enfeebled, with reminiscences of Bellini and 
Blake, are brought together in this work without unity of 



54 ESSAYS ON ART 

composition or definiteness of purpose. Mr. Hart and Mr. 
H. Pickersgill it may be enough to name. The latter takes 
his turn this year to murder Desdemona again in a life-size 
work which the Committee has, very justly, made the pen- 
dant to the miserable portraits of the Prince and Princess 
of Wales by a Danish painter, and the even more pro- 
foundly miserable figure of the Duchess of Wellington by 
Mr. Walton, which is a perfect example how a lady should 
7iot be painted. 

We suppose that a time comes in the career of many 
artists after which a deficiency, although often pointed out 
and observed, cannot or will not be amended. The care- 
lessness of Mr. Poole's drawing, and the evidences of haste 
in his work, may perhaps fall within the scope of our 
remark ; and it is impossible not to regret that the artist 
thus does injustice to a poetical invention and a feeling for 
beauty, both in expression and in colour, in which English 
art is not very fruitful. Within the limitations indicated, 
his " Greek Peasants " have much to praise. The skilful 
management of the blue dresses, which do not interfere 
with the dominant warmth of the composition, is especially 
commendable. Mr. Poole's "Lighting the Beacon " (320) 
has the disadvantage of recalling the more picturesque and 
truthful design from the same subject, which Mr. Hodgson 
exhibited in 1863. The carefully painted "Princes in the 
Tower," by Mrs. Ward, labours under the same disadvan- 
tage ; it is well imagined, and picturesquely disposed ; but 
we think we have seen the principal figure (the young 
Edward) before, in a well-known work by Paul Dela- 
roche. A small portrait of Mr. Thackeray, sketched 
twenty years ago, is Mr. Ward's single contribution to 
the walls. 

Let us here group together several artists who have 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 864 55 

sought their subjects in the East, although in other respects 
exhibiting a great variety in style and power. In his 
Diploma-picture (294) Mr. F. Goodall has presented one of 
the best things he has hitherto produced to the Academy, 
which seldom obtains such really good specimens from 
those who pass the strait gate and narrow way which 
lead to that kingdom — witness Mr. Hook's disappointing 
" Lane." Mr. Goodall has here drawn a fair Egyptian girl, 
of pleasing features, listening to the song of a swarthy 
Nubian slave, with an air of feminine compassionate in- 
terest. A woman in blue bears a water-pot behind — scene, 
the courtyard of a house, This, although the besetting 
painty look of the artist's work has not been conquered, 
is bright, solid, and effective. We greatly prefer it to his 
larger " Messenger from Sinai at the Wells of Moses," in 
which the same inevitable blue-robed female hands w^ater to 
a thirsty Arab, uncomfortably, although no doubt truthfully, 
perched upon the summit of a gigantic camel. The 
animal's neck and head have been here carefully studied, 
and the drawing, the difficulties of foreshortening con- 
sidered, is meritorious ; but we miss the quality of the real 
East. Something of the same want diminishes the interest 
of Mr. Bedford's otherwise interesting " Hagar and Ishmael." 
Here the grouping (although the figures, as we noticed when 
speaking of Mr. Armitage, might have been brought closer 
with advantage) is novel and striking ; and we may specially 
commend the truthfulness of the motif. The boy is so eager 
to drink that he alarms his mother, whose arm is vainly 
trying to restrain the wrathful impatience of the young savage. 
This, in a modest way, is a good example of the new effects 
which a thoughtful artist may find in an old theme. The 
drawing of these figures might, however, be improved. 
A new Orientalist, whose work is more -in the style of 



56 ESSAYS ON ART 

Mr. Lewis than of Mr. Goodall, appears amongst us this 
year in the person of Mr. Webb, the " TravelUng Student " 
of the Academy. The appointment, which is one of the 
very few advantages of the kind hitherto open to EngHsh 
artists, had, we believe, been for some time in abeyance. 
Mr. Webb now gives the Academy good grounds for satis- 
faction with their choice. He has sent two or three small 
works, all of them careful and thoughtful, and showing a 
powerful style in colour united with sound, if not at present 
striking, draughtmanship. We take all this as of good 
omen in a young artist on his probation ; it appears to give 
reason for hoping that Mr. Webb will follow that longer 
and more complete course of study to which no little of the 
success of his French contemporaries is owing. The " Lost 
Sheep " — an Arab shepherd in striped robe bearing it home 
to the fold at evening in a mountainous scene like those 
near Jerusalem — has also, as will be conjectured, that 
second symbolical sense which an artist working in the 
Holy Land is naturally inclined to put into his picture. 
Everything there may, in truth, be said to have a double 
meaning ; so many ancient Scripture texts are brought to 
mind by the common ways of life, as yet little changed in 
Syria. The execution of Mr. Webb's work is delicate, and 
the effect of the sinking sunlight well imagined and ren- 
iered ; although the colour has not the force and glow 
which we find in his " Shop at Jerusalem ; " where the 
picturesque details of the Eastern bazaar (almost too 
familiar, perhaps, to the spectators of the present day), are 
well set forth. **' Treading out the corn, Jerusalem," is the 
third picture sent by Mr. Webb, to whom we shall look in 
future with interest. The very delicate, perhaps sometimes 
over-refined work of Mr. Gale, " Girl with Turtle Doves," 
and *' Syrians journeying," leads us to the masterpieces in 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 864 57 

this Style which we receive this year from the unwearied 
hand and sure eye of Mr. Lewis. On the really marvellous 
qualities of this painter we need not enlarge. Practice only 
appears to deepen them ; but they are united here with 
greater interest than, except as pieces of highly-wrought art 
and intimate rendering of Oriental character, he generally 
has given to his pictures. " Caged Doves," a beautiful 
girl of Cairo, herself " caged " with her favourites, is the 
most attractive work which Mr. Lewis exhibits (577). Her 
crimson under-robe is partly covered by a rich yet delicate 
green mantle, figured with a pattern over which — by a skill 
of which the artist has the secret — the shadow of a latticed 
window is again figured by the mid-day sunbeams. A sofa, 
crimson of another tone, and covered also with a graceful 
pattern, catches the rays at another angle ; behind is the 
window and a wall of exquisitely managed gray. The 
gemlike richness and purity of this picture reduce every- 
thing near it — including even Mr. Millais's most pleasing 
child's portrait — to paint. The place of honour in the chief 
room might, indeed, have been justly claimed byLandseer's 
extraordinary Arctic scene, on which we shall have more to 
say hereafter. This apart, we think it has been fitly assigned 
to be the most important work which, since his " English 
Travellers at Sinai," Mr. Lewis has exhibited. This gives 
us the court-yard of the house of the Coptic Patriarch at 
Cairo. His aged figure is seen, on a seat of honour beneath 
gthe verandah or covered portion of the court, whilst he 

iictates a letter which an Arab is about to carry to some 
fonvent of the desert. Nearer us, a tank — no doubt the 

Mental pattern which gave the idea for the Imphivia of the 

Pompeian houses — is crowded with briUiant birds ; whilst 
flight of the splendid Egyptian pigeons, which appear 

^ith such effect in Mr. Holman Hunt's new picture of the 



5^ ESSAYS ON ART 

" After Glow," perches on the chequered marble pavement, 
or wheels around the vast acacia that fills the upper por- 
tion of the courtyard with a cloud of tremulous verdure. 
Servants of the house, in their bright Eastern dresses, are 
about, engaged with the pet birds and animals of the place. 
We have here the materials for a work of unusual com- 
pass ] but the conscientious patience of the artist has not 
been content to leave an inch of his canvas neglected ; and 
he has painted the charmingly inventive details of a Cairene 
mansion, with the effects of light pouring in directly from 
above, or entering by reflection through the lattices of the 
lower wall, with the same loving fidelity that he has be- 
stowed upon the figures. This is altogether a work /jors 
iigne^ and, without disputing the not inferior merit and attrac- 
tiveness of that broader style in which the scene might have 
been treated by a man like Mr. Whistler at home or by 
more than one contemporary painter in France, w^e should 
add that Mr. Lewis has managed his material with such 
skill that the whole composition is properly " kept to- 
gether." 

Mr. Fisk, who last year, if we remember rightly, sent a 
powerful though unpleasant scene from the prison-tragedies 
of the first French Revolution, sends now a subject from 
Scripture which may be properly noticed here. ' In his 
"Last Night of Christ at Nazareth" (551) he has not, 
indeed, escaped something of the quality which we have 
indicated in the other work, the principal figure being 
deficient in dignity both of form and expression. There 
is also some awkwardness, hardly redeemed (as we think), 
in such a subject, by its truth to nature, in the attitude of 
the Apostle who lies prostrate in sleep by his Master's side. 
The picture is, however, well worthy careful attention at 
once from the originality of the idea and the fearlessness 



K 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1864 59 

with which it has been worked out, and for the really noble 
drawing of the mountain valley over which we look. The 
foreground figures are dimly lighted by a low and, pro- 
bably, a waning moon— at least, this is the effect given 
— whilst the first anticipations of the daybreak are casting 
their cold light over the furthest horizon. There is no 
marked attempt at reproduction of the past in Mr. Fisk's 
picture. Messrs. Solomon and Poynter, on the other hand, 
go back into the East in its earliest phases. The latter 
sends a careful study (277) from Egypt under the Pharaohs. 
A soldier is here keeping guard on the turret of some 
walled seaport, with a huge flagstaff by his side ; whilst 
below we see the strange perspective of an Egyptian 
city, its avenues, temples, and broad fortifications, such as 
they may have been seen by those primitive Greeks who 
entered the sacred land in the age of Psammeticus. Mr, 
Solomon's " Deacon," a youth holding a censer, is handled 
with great skill, although with some tendency to blackness 
in the making out of the forms. We wish that this clever 
artist would do himself justice by selecting some more im- 
portant subject. 

Character-scenes from contemporary Continental life are 
not numerous in this Exhibition. One small and thinly^ 
but gracefully, painted work, " Winnowing Corn at Capri," 
has been sent by that unequal, though always interesting, 
artist, Mr. Wallis. Four or five peasants are engaged 
on their picturesque employment, ranged in a line along 
the threshing floor almost with the severity of a bas-relief. 
The varieties in attitude are rendered with skill and grace^ 
and the sculpturesque quality in the design which we have 
indicated is well balanced by the disposition of the acces- 
sories and the landscape, which runs down obliquely behind 

e line of figures. Mr. Boughton's " Interininable Story," 



6o ESSAYS ON ART 

a group which tells its little tale with easy humour, is a 
specimen of that delicately-broad and subdued style of 
which Mr. Thom's " Returning from the Wood " must be, 
if we could only fairly see it, a good example. The action 
of the figures has that naturalness which we look for in a 
pupil of M. Edouard Frere. Less genuine, though more 
effective, is the art displayed by Mr. Phillip in his large 
Spanish Wake or *' Gloria." This represents that strange 
Southern custom which lays out the corpse of an infant 
with lights and flowers, whilst a merry company assemble 
to celebrate its passage into another world from a life, 
which the neighbours, at any rate, appear under no anxiety 
to be relieved of. This subject, repulsive in itself, although 
not perhaps on that account entirely beyond the pale of 
art, would require, however, to render it endurable, greater 
seriousness of conception and a more thorough execution. 
The tragic demands either a slight indicative sketch, or 
loftiness and completion in treatment. Here we have a 
brilliantly-coloured scene, filled with those characters in 
Spanish life which are within Mr. Phillip's range, amidst 
whom, in spite of the as yet unmirthful mother, we have 
some difliculty in discovering the child who is the heroine 
of the drama. 



Ill • 

We have now to consider, with the painters of domestic 
life, those noteworthy younger artists whose figure-subjects 
form the most interesting, and perhaps the most advancing, 
section of English art. These painters differ too much to 
be brought under one definition ; but on the whole, besides 
the increased regard for drawing, colour, and brilliancy 
which they show, they may be said to have introduced a 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 864 $1 

new series of incident-subjects which cannot be classified 
under the two ancient heads of common Hfe or history — 
being more poetical, and of wider scope than the first, 
whilst they rarely answer, either in style or in the choice of 
incident, to the old conventional idea of the grand or his- 
torical school. We must, however, give Mr. Millais a place 
here rather on the score of his great former achievements 
than of anything that he now sends. His single invention 
— a pert Jacobite damsel perched on a mounting-block, in 
a green velvet riding-dress, with appropriate symbols of her 
political creed about her — is enough to convert one to 
Hanoverianism at once. This, however, is the most com- 
pletely and delicately coloured of any of his pictures ; 
although, for its charming naturalness of air, we prefer the 
little head of a boy (135). The three other girl subjects 
hardly require description. In each of them we find that 
powerful painting in which Mr. Millais has no equal ; in 
each of them, also, we must confess to finding a lack of 
that delicacy and grace which such subjects seem especially 
to demand. The child in the studio chair is the least open 
the latter remark. In the "Second Sermon," the im- 
ortance of the furniture compared to the child — and of 
the dress, again, to the child's figure — strikes us as dispro- 
rtionate ; and the perpendicular legs are a piece of un- 
ecessary and unpleasant truth to nature. The two girls 
th gold fish are the most efiective, if not the most har- 
onious, piece of colour which the artist gives ; although 
lere the want of refinement in the features and limbs, with 
e vulgar dressiness of the children, seriously interfere 
ith enjoyment. The painting of the bowl and fish is 
.dmirable ; but, for the due balance of the whole as a 
'ork of art, should we not either have had these accessories 
lone, or not have had them ? In some of the points above 



10 



62 ESSAYS ON ART 

suggested, Mr. Archer's " Infanta sitting to Velasquez for 
her Portrait " may be profitably compared with Mr. Millais' 
work. More finely modelled, and more delicately handled, 
this little figure seems to us to have thus more of the 
essentials of childhood in it. Mr. Prinsep, if he does not 
this year try any subject of powerful interest, has gained in 
mastery over his art. His " Berenice," though not exactly the 
*Mady" of whom Mr. Browning speaks in the verses quoted, 
is a grand piece of decorative colouring, though rather 
coarse in design. The same artist's lady of the last cen- 
tury, in her full court dress and fan, sweeping gracefully 
by, shows command over colour, motion, and life. It is a 
more satisfactory work than his " Beatrice and Benedick," 
where the heroine is rather plain and awkward, and the 
lively bachelor, although his attitude is well imagined, does 
not seem quite equal to the brilliant things which Shakspeare 
has put into his mouth. Messrs. Stanhope, Halliday, and 
Sandys all appear devoted, at present, to that modernized 
mediaevalism in which Mr. E. B. Jones of the Water-Colour 
Society is a professed master : a fancy which (we trust) will 
not be long allowed to hamper their capacities for a more 
natural style. We can only admire the technical qualities 
of the female figures by the two latter. In Mr. Stanhope's 
" Rizpah," the jdea is original and picturesque. This is a 
subject which, we would suggest, might be advantageously 
worked out again by the painter. Greater force in the 
widow's features, and more roundness in her figure, would 
reheve the composition of a certain embarrassment which, 
the confused though effective lines of the background now] 
throw over the scene. 

An expressive female head — the figure shown in half- j 
length — by Mr. Martineau, represents the queen of some 
tournament prepared to reward her own true knight, and 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 864 63 

looking with well-rendered anxiety on the combat. This 
is firmly and completely painted, but we entertain a 
hope that the artist of the excellent "Last Day in the 
Old Home " will not allow that to be his solitary success 
in dramatic invention on an impressive scale. Such work, 
perhaps, is hardly to be expected from Mr. Whistler. There 
is obviously an excess of fantasy in his nature ; yet we 
must express a deliberate conviction that our school has no 
artist by whom, in respect of some of the highest and the 
rarest technical gifts, so much might be given us. Eccentric 
as may be the idea of that long Chinese maiden who is ap- 
propriately bestowing her own proportions on the " lange 
lizen " of her vase, this is the most remarkable thing exhi- 
bited for exquisite richness and of subtlety of colouring, com- 
bined with total absence of elaboration in laying the colours 
on. Every touch here has been struck in, apparently, 
with that directness which has. long made Velasquez the 
envy of all artists ; the coloured-paper labels on the right 
above the figure should be especially noticed ; and we may 
fairly suppose that if in this picture, and in the view of 
Wapping near it, the figures had been free from some obvious 
negligences, Mr. Whistler might have obtained from a jury 
of oil-colour painters the first prize for mastery over the 
technicalities of his profession. 

Mr. Arthur Hughes maintains the place which he has 
long taken as one of our best poetical inventors within the 
range of idyllic art by the three pictures now sent — a music 
party, a scene within a village church, and a group in which 
a girl leads her grandmother (it may be) through a garden 

Inch with the golden greens and purples of spring. This 
flatter appears to us the most complete of the three. The 
^ntrast of youth and age could not be more tenderly ex- 
|)ressed. A pecuhar mannerism in colour interferes with 



64 ESSAYS ON ART 

the popular recognition of the merits of this artist, and 
gives a kind of monotony to his work. We cannot but 
wish that Mr. Hughes would quit for a time that delicate 
and graceful line of subjects with which he has familiarized 
us, and try his powers on rougher or stronger scenes. 
There is such a mark of individuality on all he does that 
he need not fear he would lose himself. We are glad to 
see, by the crowd around it, that his graceful " Sunbeam in 
Church," in which the quality of homely force is less repre- 
sented than the elements of charm and thoughtfulness, has 
found its way to the hearts of spectators. 

Turning now to artists whose genius lies rather more in 
the invention of incident, or the illustration of history, than 
those we have just touched on, an encouraging advance may 
be noted in more than one of the younger contributors. Mr. 
Hodgson leads the way with his carefully-designed and very 
delicately-coloured " Review of the English Fleet by Eliza- 
beth " — a picture which has been hung rather unfavourably 
in the Fourth Room. The Queen, with her famous group 
of courtiers, is proceeding slowly along the cliff, beneath 
which Lord HoAvard's squadron is riding. A want of ani- 
mation in the crowd detracts from the effect of this pro- 
mising work, and the heads, familiar to us through so many 
contemporary portraits, require more character ; but in the 
management of the painting, and in the total absence of 
showiness and studio effect, this is one of the most genuine 
things of the Exhibition. Like Mr. Hodgson, Mr. Crowe 
has also made a step onward. His drawing is a great 
advance upon what satisfied the world of art twenty years 
ago, before the Westminster Hall competition gave us a 
start ; and his colouring, although not so tender and trans- 
parent as Mr. Hodgson's, is vigorous and firm. His prin- 
cipal picture — Luther posting his anti-indulgence theses on 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 864 65 

a church door — cannot, we are sure, satisfy so thoughtful an 
artist in regard to the central personage. Perhaps the Luther 
should have been brought nearer the eye ; as it is, he is an 
ineffective and inappropriate figure. Tetzel on one side, on 
the other the honest German citizens who sympathize with 
Luther's onslaught against abuses and hypocrisies, are ani- 
mated and characteristic. We might repeat the principal 
part of this criticism in regard to Mr. Crowe's " Only a 
Woman's Hair " — Swift's bitter endorsement on the paper 
which contained Stella's. Everything here in the room, the 
accessories, and the attitude, are so good, that more force, 
and especially more warmth of colour in the Dean's fea- 
tures, are felt as wanting to stamp the work with unity and 
central interest. 

The "Meeting of Arabella Stuart and Mr. Seymour" 
(Mr. G. A. Storey) is another work full of good character- 
painting ; a little too smooth in execution, and not in 
all parts drawn with evenness of care (as in the lady's 
dress and some of the further figures), yet successful in so 
genuine a way that we hail it as a picture of a certain pro- 
mise. Between those men who succeed by a happy trick, and 
those who succeed by instinct for their art, one of the eter- 
nal lines is drawn which separate the men capable of growth 
from those who cannot step beyond their little circle. Here 
the three chief figures — Seymour taking the Lady Arabella's 
hands, and James (as history shows him, crafty, selfish, and 
odious) advancing stealthily towards them with the air of 
a cat watching the mice at play — are excellent. The action 
of Seymour when he recognizes his youthful favourite, now 
grown up to woman's height and beauty, is uncommonly 
fine and gracious. Mr. Calderon's " Burial of Hampden " 
ranks with Mr. Storey's piece in interest, although it has 
some signs of haste, if not in the execution, at least in the 

F 



66 ESSAYS ON ART 

design ; the nearer row of figures might especially, we 
think, have been made more characteristic and interesting. 
With some correction, this work would be very well fitted 
for a place among the frescoes at Westminster ; the series 
would gain much in interest if a larger number of hands 
were employed. " La Reine Malheureuse," by Mr. Yeames, 
represents Henrietta Maria taking shelter in a snow-filled 
lane from certain Commonwealth vessels in Burlington Bay. 
We do not know with what feeling the clever artist 
approached this work ; he has certainly not given it an air of 
serious calamity. The Queen and her gaily-dressed company 
seem to have come out for a day's pleasure, and are sur- 
prised by finding the snow on the ground. We see next to 
nothing of the danger of cannon-balls or capture ; and the 
only figure awake to the gravity of the situation is a priest, 
whose alarm is humourously enough expressed. In this point 
Mr. Yeames reminds us of Mr. Pettie, whose " Tonsure " 
is a clever and very comical rendering of the real, every- 
day aspect of monastic life. The barber of the convent is 
operating on the head of a novice, who shrinks in horror 
from the rough razor-work of " religious " life, and is obvi- 
ously regretting the village Figaro. The details of this little 
picture are also capitally conceived ; it has a completeness 
which we miss in Mr. Pettie's " Fox refusing to take the 
Oaths," where the space is insufiiciently filled, and the whole 
picture, although it has good points, looks rather like a 
made-up sketch than a finished painting. There is much 
danger of mannerism here. In Mr. Marks, again, we note 
a steady advance. Each of his three pictures reaches its 
aim ; and the grace of the child in his " Beggar-scene," with 
the truth and character of the blind musician whom she 
leads, and the comfortable baker whose bread she covets, 
remind us, although without traces of undue imitation, of 



ft 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 864 67 

the Flemish painter Leys. There is also some improvement 
in the colour, although here the difference between the two 
artists is, perhaps, most conspicuously felt, and the remain- 
ing figures in Mr. Mark's story do not add to the story. 

Whilst making these remarks, we are not ignorant of the 
vast difficulty of the subjects with which these artists are 
now dealing. That they should select them, and then work 
them out as they do, is a proof of immense advance in our 
school, whether we compare their pictures with the historical 
designs which twenty years ago brought reputation to the 
artists, or with the domestic sentimentaHties which have 
been so over-frequent in England. Within the latter class, 
Mr. Faed (if we do not reckon in it Mr. Millais, in deference 
to his much higher powers) is this year supreme. His 
pleasing children's faces, his bright though patchy colour 
(rich, thick, and treacly), the somewhat studious and elabo- 
rate picturesqueness, easy sentimentaHsms, and allusions 
which no one can misunderstand-; — all these qualities show 
no signs of falling-off, and in the " Mitherless Bairn " will 
exert their usual effect over the passing spectator. Mr. Faed's 
work generally pleases for the moment, but seems to us 
deficient in the simplicity and thoroughness without which 
scenes from common life of the pathetic order cannot 
maintain a lasting interest. Meanwhile he pleases ! — and 
should hence be encouraged to do more justice to his powers. 
Mr. Faed is not, however, so happy in his principal subject 
as on former occasions. It is only discoverable by the cata- 
logue that the cobbler fitting a glove on a pretty girl's hand 
acts both parents in one to his motherless child. There is 
nothing to indicate this in this action, or in the row of 
children who look on ; and as it would have been easy to 
select some motif yi^\<^ would have conveyed the idea, we 
suppose that the name has been thrown in by way of senti- 

F 2 



68 ESSAYS ON ART 

mental make-weight. This habit of trying to fill out a pic- 
ture, as it were, by some little matter of feeling or humour, 
in addition to the bit of nature, whatever it may be, selected 
for the subject, is a common weakness in the English school, 
and seriously hurtful to that unconsciousness of air and 
modesty in appeal which make a picture charming. Mr. 
Orchardson's " Flowers of the Forest " appears to us a 
better work, because it relies only on its own sentiment 
for effect. The little maidens marching gaily as they sing 
over the high moorland to the ewe-milking, are as pretty 
a group as anything in the Exhibition ; but we are sorry 
that the colour is less pure, and the details less delicately 
wrought, than Mr. Orchardson's work last year led us to 
anticipate. We trust he will not allow the tricks of style 
from which Mr. Pettie and Mr. Nichols are not free, to grow 
upon him. The latter sends one rather broadly humourous 
but clever thing — an Irish peasant shown into a drawing- 
room amongst the " Old Masters," in waiting for his land- 
lord. The perplexity of the man, who is so confounded and 
abashed by Rubens and Titian that he hardly knows how 
to sit steady, is excellent. Mr. NicoFs " Waiting for the 
Train " is too much in Mr. Faed's manner. The " Battle of 
Waterloo," by Mr. Webster, is a more complete and impor- 
tant specimen of his style than has been exhibited for some 
years. Mr. Horsley and Mr. Rankley, painters who have 
formerly attached themselves each so devotedly to his little 
class of subjects' as to run no small risk of mannerism, now 
do themselves credit by the bolder and less made-up style 
of their chief pictures — the Doctor visiting a Gipsy Child, 
and the little girl showing her new frock to her grandmother. 
The courage with which Mr. Rankley, in this gipsy-scene, 
paints actual rags, deserves notice ; they appear to frighten 
people as much on canvas as on the stage, or in the 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 864 69 

Street : they symbolize (we suppose) the opposite principle 
to that which in England, receives, perhaps, a sometimes 
too devoted worship, — Respectability. 

Mr. Leslie sends a baby on a river-barge receiving an 
apple from a young lady on the bank. The long line of the 
boat is painted with good feeling for tone, and the whole has 
an unaffected air, although the scene is deficient in subject, 
and the drawing and colour still leave much — very much ! 
to be desired. Artists like Mr. Leslie, or the younger Stan- 
field and Cox, stand in a peculiarly difficult position ; the 
world being always at first more sympathetic and afterwards 
more exigent with regard to the sons of distinguished men. 
We trust that the praise which has been partly called forth 
by the former of these feelings will not lead Mr. Leslie to 
relax his efforts till he has fairly created an independent 
manner of his own. And we may venture to extend this 
remark, with more emphasis, to Mr. Marcus Stone, whose 
" Village Deserter " of this year is much below his last 
year's "Napoleon in Flight," both in idea and in execu- 
tion. This is only imitation work — Creswick without his 
grace, and Frith with little of his cleverness. There is a 
measure of the latter quality in Mr. O'Neil's " Landing of 
the Princess Alexandra" — a subject of so impracticable a 
nature that nothing short of the genius of Gainsborough 
could have managed it with success. Mr. O'Neil was here 
sadly hampered by the flaring red cloaks of the girls who 
strewed the way of the Princess with the conventional 
flowers, and by the exquisitely frightful decorations charac- 
teristic of English railway or steamboat buildings eti fete ; 
but he might have varied the type of his young ladies more. 
State ceremonies of this nature done to order, and mainly 
with the view of appealing to the least educated popular 
taste by a showy print, such as we are threatened with in the 



70 ESSAYS ON ART 

case of Mr. Frith's Marriage of the Prince, are not only apt 
to deteriorate the artist's style, but must be also considered 
a real injury to the public appreciation of art. 



IV 

Figure subjects predominate so decidedly in this Ex- 
hibition that, brief as have been our comments on the 
more important works of this class, and numerous as are 
those which we must perforce pass over, we have but a 
short space left for what used to be popularly reckoned the 
speciahty of the English school. And even in landscapes, 
figures are still prominent — from the cold common-place of 
Cooper and Ansdell, to the idyls of Hook and the tragic 
force of Landseer. The last two, with Stanfield, honourably 
support the character of the Academy in landscape, whilst 
it is decidedly among the young men and the outsiders 
that, as we have seen, the strength of the figure-painting 
lies. This style admits of more detailed description than 
landscape, and there is also clearer evidence in it whether 
the artist is on the forw^ard tack or not ; for the lovers of 
nature are apt to move their easels year by year a few 
feet onward within their favourite and well-studied haunts, 
whilst those who travel through a wider range, with one or 
two noticeable exceptions, are at present working up their 
foreign experiences too clearly in English studios, and paint 
Spain or Italy in tints which have little or no "local colour" 
in them. Such at least appear to us the Spanish peasantry 
of Mr. Ansdell, the view of Gibraltar which Mr. Lee sends, 
and the Castle of St. Angelo by Mr. Roberts. The last 
two, as usual, have chosen their points of view with skill, 
and show in this respect a dexterity which our younger, 
and we must add, our better artists do not often exhibit ; 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1864 7 1 

yet it is impossible to accept the Rome as more than a 
skilful piece of panoramic effect, or to look with pleasure 
at the clay- cold monotony of tints, interspersed with a few 
coarse and heavy touches of brown, into which Mr. Lee 
generalizes (we believe that is the word) the endless wealth 
of varied beauty that nature spreads over the coast scenery 
of Andalusia. A calm at sea by this Academician, again, 
presents us with a surface so dead and solid that, as some 
one has observed, we wonder why the boat's crew becalmed 
on this huge unyielding plain do not disembark at once 
and walk across it. 

Should we class Mr. Cooke's sea-pieces in the same cate- 
gory with Mr. Lee's 1 They show, indeed, greater power, 
and are obviously drawn and painted in a much more 
thorough way, the vessels in particular being always ren- 
dered, in all their details, with unusual knowledge ; but they 
give no sense of the poetry of the waves. From the hard 
and definite style of the artist, they seem also deficient in 
sea atmosphere, and hence fail in conveying the idea of 
liquidity. Mr. Cooke's powers are shown to better effect in 
his " Roman Bridge near Tangier." The effect of this is 
rather hot and over purply — it is more of an evening than a 
dawning atmosphere — but the great size of the ruin, half 
lighted by the rising sun, has been brought out in a really 
skilful way, and a picturesque range of hills behind is well 
drawn and coloured. We cannot understand how the small 
side arches have assumed the narrow, almost Gothic forms, 
which we see here ; no dislocations above explain the com- 
pression of their curves, nor does the perspective account 
for it. Were they originally pointed 1—Mr. Sidney Cooper, 
like Mr. Ansdell, by the iteration, — is it for the tenth time 1 
who shall number 1 — of his flat meadows, toneless cattle, 
and uninteresting sky rolling up without repose or dignity 



72 ESSAYS ON ART 

(though not without some expression of air and space) 
from the horizon, reminds that in art, as in Hfe, not to 
advance is to go back. A Highland snow-scene which 
Mr. Cooper exhibited a few years ago gave us the hope 
that he would use his dexterity to less mechanical pur- 
pose. As it is, we can only suggest to our readers' re- 
membrance the variety of fine and truthful effects which 
Cuyp and Paul Potter in the old days of Flemish art, 
or Mdlle. Bonheur and De Haas now-a-days, draw from 
similar subjects. Or, if a contrast before the eyes be pre- 
ferred, take Mr. G. Mason's little " Return from Ploughing," 
or Mr. W. H. Davis's " Valley of La Liane," as proof how 
small a portion of nature is required for charm of effect 
when drawn and painted with feeling. In the last we have 
a storm-cloud melting away in white, peaceful cumuli^ from 
which all the thunder and nearly all the rain has gone — the 
sun breaking out again, and flooding the lovely sweeps of 
the Northern French landscape with tender brilliancy. In 
the foreground, a drove of farm-horses are coming wildly 
along a rough field road. This difficult open-air and sun- 
light effect has been treated by Mr. Davis with skill and 
truthfulness. Mr. Mason, who has on former occasions 
shown his power of dealing with somewhat similar tones, 
has this time pitched his picture in a twilight key ; and yet, 
whilst resisting firmly the temptation to put his figures in a 
brighter light than his landscape, has filled the whole with 
subdued clear obscurity. The horses are moving slowly up 
a bit of hill-side ; beyond, the ground falls, and we see the 
lights in the farmstead, and two children who have come out 
for water. Behind all, the last streaks of sunset are spread 
over a line of purple moor. 

Mr. Mason's seems to us the most distinctively poetical 
landscape of the year ; yet it has near rivals in Mr. Stanfield 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1864 73 

and Mr. Hook. Two companion pictures, '^ Peace " and 
" War," by the former, show this quaHty in a degree which has 
not often been found in Mr. Stanfield's earHer work. In the 
"War," ships are lying off a coast where a fort has been blown 
to pieces ; in the distance, a town is on fire. The sky is here 
beautifully drawn and painted, with a mysterious glimmer 
and vague tenderness of tint. " Peace " shows a noble har- 
bour, divided by a central mass of cliff and trees ; old hulks 
lie near ; beyond, in the dock, frigates are hoisting sail. The 
painting of the water-surfaces, almost calm, yet indicating 
the set of the tide by slight ripples, reminds one very closely 
of Turner, although without his subtlety and brightness of 
tint. A view on the Dutch Coast is more in Mr. Stanfield's 
former style. Two other sea-pieces may be noticed here, 
which, like many of the landscapes, have been unfavourably 
hung, although, even at their present height, enough is 
seen to show their merit. These are ^' Crawley Rocks," 
and " The Morning Watch," by Mr. C. P. Knight. Both 
are full of light and air, and the perspective of the water 
is excellent. From Mr. Knight's former works we can also 
infer that these pictures are delicately finished. Mr. Hook, 
like Mr. Millais, enjoys so great a popularity that, a month 
after the Exhibition has opened, it is almost superfluous 
to name his annual contributions. The series of Cornish 
Sea Views fully maintain his reputation for tender brightness 
of colour, and a peculiarly attractive mode of blending the 
figures with the sentiment of the scene. The two inland 
pictures appear to us less successful ; especially as they are, 
this year, exposed to severe competition from Mr. Creswick, 
whose " Welsh Valley " and " Across the Beck " are land- 
scapes of much scope and effect. Returning to Mr. Hook, 
let us say that, of his mining pictures, the most novel and 
powerful represents the iron-stained truck' which has just 



74 ESSAYS ON ART 

been drawn up from the deep sea-caverns of Botallack, with 
its load of sturdy russet Cornishmen. The effect of this 
group, brought right against a vast wall of blue sea (the 
horizon being placed, as often in Mr. Hook's works, at a 
picturesque height), is very striking ; hardly less so is the 
delicacy and sweetness of tint with which he has painted 
the mine woodwork on the cliff above. Another picture 
shows us women and children returning from some less 
severe branch of their labour ; two girls washing their arms 
and arranging their hair at a pool are eminently graceful. 
Always natural in his figures, Mr. Hook appears apt to take 
them too much in their first attitude, which is not uniformly 
felicitous ; nor does he succeed uniformly in balancing his 
composition in their arrangement. The shining sea, which 
lies beyond a range of grassy hill-tops, interspersed with 
rock, lights up this picture admirably; and, without stopping 
to dwell on his other Cornish scene, the " Milk for the 
Schooner," we would draw attention to the beautiful indi- 
cation of a rising breeze which has been given by the faint 
white streamers of mist, hardly seen and yet distinctly felt 
above the horizon. It is rather a severe test which Mr. 
Naish's "Last Tack Home" has to undergo, placed just 
below Mr. Hook's " Miners leaving Work ; " yet it bears the 
trial well. A grizzled sailor and his son are here seen pic- 
turesquely sheltered beneath the rigging of their boat, and 
looking with fixed eagerness on the scattered roofs of the 
famous village of Clovelly. Everything is drawn with that 
conscientious fidelity to which Mr. Naish has accustomed 
us in his work, whilst he has given it greater interest by his 
introduction of the human figure. 

Our modern elaborately finished school of landscape does 
not in general appear to find more favour now with the 
Arranging Committee than it did in the days when we heard 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 864 75 

SO much about Pre-Raphaelitism. The unfavourable posi- 
tion of Mr. Knight's sea-pieces we have aheady noticed; 
as brothers in misfortune, we must join with him Messrs. 
Edwards, Anthony, and Maccallum. The first sends (to the 
ceiUng) three or four views of the North Cornish Coast, 
taken from that noble region which forms the background 
to part of Mr. Tennyson's Arthurian Idyls, which have a 
truthful look, and are remarkably unconventional in their 
points of view. The colouring appears firm, but wanting 
(at least as the pictures are hung) in variety. A harsh green 
is rather predominant in Mr. Anthony's foliage ; but his 
landscapes are painted in a manly, original way, to which, 
for some reason, justice does not seem alive in Trafalgar 
Square. At least Mr. Anthony's exclusion from a favourable 
place has been commented on for many years, and must 
surprize all who remember his charming " Hesperus '' in the 
International Exhibition. Amongst landscapes hung too 
low, but within reach of sight, we may point out Miss Blun- 
den's view near the Lizard (520) and Mr. Brett's "Massa, 
Bay of Naples '' as worth careful study. These are admirably 
faithful little pictures. As a true rendering of terrestrial 
anatomy. Miss Blunden's appears to us perfect. The 
drawing of the soil and turf, which, in rock districts like the 
Lizard, lie over the bones of old earth, and soften whilst 
they follow her ruggedness, could not be better given. . Mr. 
Brett's view is unpleasing in colour, but the individuality 
of the innumerable trees which here clothe the cliffs, and 
the long recession of the beautiful coast, deserve the praise 
above given to Miss Blunden. Mr. Brett has also an ex- 
cellent little water-colour drawing of the sea beneath a 
passing rain-storm (607), which in tone and in drawing is 
equally remarkable. A bright and elegant forest glade 
above a brook bears the name of Mr. Dearie (582); and 



76 ESSAYS ON ART 

Mr. Mote's " Gap in the Hedge," although a little — not too 
bright, which a sunlit landscape can never be — but too 
uniformly vivid, shows some very refined passages of detail, 
and a true sense of the complexity of nature. Truth of 
effect may be reached by artists who work thus, as by those 
who, like Mr. Mason and Mr. Whistler, or Mr. F. Dillon in 
his little sketch from Suez (500), prefer a broader style, in 
which tone is more sought after than preciseness of detail. 
What can never be true or valuable in art is such work as 
Mr. Ansdell's " Lytham," where we have a dull and conven- 
tional monotone of tint over everything, whilst the grass and 
sandhills and sea-pebbles are painted with a few careless and 
unmeaning touches. 

We remember no landscape by Mr. Oakes so powerful or 
so well brought together in effect as his " Mountain Valley " 
— otters catching salmon in the foreground, whilst behind a 
sudden gleam of angry light, succeeding rain and snow, 
smites the fractured face of a huge slate cliff. This work 
has a real solemnity of effect — praise in which Mr. Walton's 
view of the Pyramids may also share. This is a gorgeous 
scene of southern sunset, in which, however, the artist has 
successfully managed to balance his brilliancy by the hazy 
atmospheric tints spread over the horizon and the foreground. 
Some want of this balance of colour detracts from the effect 
of tlT*e otherwise commendable English sunset by Mr. V. 
Cole (346). Here the tone of the whole strikes us as too 
purely green and golden ; a passage of cool gray in the 
carefully drawn sky would be of great value. We are glad 
to see the artist working on this scale. Mr. Leader's 
" Country Churchyard," taken apparently at Bettwys-y-Coed, 
deserves notice for its brilliancy, and for the very truthful 
study of the architecture — a merit which, by the way, we 
omitted to specify in Mr. Crowe's "Luther at Wittemberg." 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 864 77 

. Many small landscapes of genuine merit in their kind — 
as Mr. C. E. Johnson's vigorous "Launch," and Mr. Mog- 
ford's " Watergate Bay " — are unavoidably passed over in 
this brief review ; but we must reserve space for two others 
of our rising men, who seem to us to show no common 
merit, both in the originality and in the poetry of their 
conception. Mr. H. Moore, whose painting is rather too 
thin and scattered in effect at present, appears to deserve 
this praise in virtue of his "Whitby Sands" and "Cot- 
tager's Cow Pasture." The latter is full of air and sun ; the 
delicately curving field-surfaces and light sprinkled trees in 
the "middle distance" are beautifully touched; the fore- 
ground cattle carefully drawn, and so arranged as to com- 
pose well with the landscape. This little work has all the 
amenity of Birket Foster, together with what his designs 
generally want, sincerity — that irresistible air of what one 
would be inclined to call unstudied truth, were it not cer- 
tain that such truth comes only through hard study. For 
the " Storm approaching Outside a City," by Mr. J. R. Lee 
(not the Academician), we have reserved the last place in 
this series, thinking it one of the most genuine landscapes, 
in point of true observance of natural effect, combined 
with really good execution, that are here exhibited. A 
thundercloud is rolling itself up above a city on the 
horizon ; we are in the fields without, over which the pecu- 
liar hot shade of a summer storm is gathering. The electric 
power in the cloud, wreathing it in light wrathful masses, 
is admirably rendered. Another landscape, by Mr. J. R. Lee 
(375)? where low clouds, as if after such a storm, are piled 
like vast towers along the horizon, looks fully equal to the 
picture just noticed, but is hung too high for further remark. 
Every one is familiar by this time with the two fine works 
by which, with Mr. Hook and Mr. Stanfield (as we have 



78 ESSAYS ON ART 

noticed before), Sir E. Landseer has done so much to up- 
hold the credit of the Academy in the style of animated 
landscape. The Squirrels and Bullfinch are touched with 
all his ancient skill. We have painters who could have put 
more of the real drawing into their forms ; but very few, 
except perhaps Mr. Whistler, who could have laid them in 
with such a delightful appearance of ease. Yet even the skill 
shown here seems to us a very little thing beside the tragic 
poetry of Landseer's Polar Scene. We might, indeed, dwell 
here again on the masterly handling by which so much effect 
has been gained with a touch, and on the animal drawing, 
which has some points of likeness to that of the great Saxon 
animal modeller, Julius Haehnel, in its singular power and 
truth to ursine nature. But although in these points we believe 
that this picture may be without rashness placed amongst 
Sir Edwin's very best works, yet what, to our thinking, gives 
it supremacy in rank is the force and height of the idea. 
True, this is indeed one aspect of the terror of death — one 
which almost touches on the horrible. From a too power- 
ful sense of this the artist has saved his work, in part by the 
poetical feeling thrown into the desolate landscape, in part 
by the total freedom from sentimentalism ; but most, per- 
haps, by the skill with which the idea of the actual human 
suffering has been effaced from the blanched bones and 
relics, obviously exposed to many Arctic winters. Yet no 
one is likely to look unmoved on this tragic vision : — the 
last scene in the life of Franklin and his gallant crew. 
These, however, are among the things " which have been, 
and may be again ; " and it is right that, when an artist 
can set them before us with such sublimity of sentiment, 
the memory of the brave men whose lives were sacrificed to , 
the noble pursuit of knowledge should be thus honoured. 
Great art cannot be better employed than on great actions. 



I 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 864 79 



There is little in this year's portraits requiring special 
remark. The majority of those exhibited have been pro- 
duced by that process on which we commented last year, — 
rather as matters of steady manufacture than of art — which 
seems to satisfy the demands of the market. The Scotch 
school, represented by Gordon, Macbeth, Macnee, and 
others, pursue mainly the track long since marked out by 
Raeburn ; and, dark and blotchy though the pictures are 
apt to be, yet there is a sort of force in their work which, 
despite all Academical and other honours, neither Grant 
nor Weigall, Richmond nor Buckner, succeed in putting 
into theirs. It is, however, just to Mr. Buckner to add that 
his " Mrs. Bischoffsheim " is less mannered than his wont ; 
whilst Mr. Weigall shows a sense of female grace which his 
dull colouring and monotonous style of drawing (the latter 
probably the result of fatal popularity) threaten to render 
valueless. Such work, on the other hand, as we see in Mr. 
Grant's Beaufort group, or in the lady's bust. No. 278 (let us 
call attention, with all the delicacy possible, to the drawing 
and colour of the ear), proves, so far as paint and canvas 
can, that the right to the title of artist, for the present at 
least, is in abeyance. Whatever may have been the case in 
former years, few reputations are now less forcibly supported 
than this painter's. 

We are more interested by the portraits which bear the 
names of Mr. Boxall, Mr. Dickinson, Mr. Laurence, and 
Mr. Sant. The latter has resumed, with great advantage, a 
more telling style in his colour. Mr. Sandys again exhibits, 
though this time on a larger scale, that marvellously precise 
and finished delineation of which he gave an example in 
1863. When he has overcome the natural impulse to show 



So ESSAYS ON ART 

his mastery over accumulated detail, this artist ought to 
hold a place of his own for which people, a century hence, 
will be grateful. Mr. W. Richmond, also, sustains his last 
year's reputation by another graceful and effective child- 
portrait (119), to which we may add a head in chalk which 
looks unaffected. Until, however, greater space allows 
the Academy to hang all its creditable portraits upon the 
line, we cannot hope to do justice to their merits. No 
true work of art in the w^ay of figure-painting (unless the 
figures exceed life-size) can, we submit, be really seen at a 
greater height. Even the well-drawai and carefully-coloured 
pictures by Mr. Wells (38 and 290 in particular), and the 
two graceful ladies by Mr. Baccani, in which the gray tints 
are especially delicate, cannot be fairly judged as they hang; 
whilst the details of Mr. Phillips' interesting group of 
Messrs. Grant and Speke are as inscrutable as the veritable 
and final source of the Nile has hitherto proved itself. And, 
for the same reason, we can only speak of the figure by 
Mr. Armitage (229), as apparently the most thorough and 
well-considered piece of portraiture here exhibited. 

A Nemesis in art, to the infinite pain of loyal subjects, 
appears to have fallen upon our Royal Family. From an 
Albert Memorial to a statuette, they are sacrificed to want 
of power or want of skill, with their inevitable accom- 
paniments, want of effect, or effect worse than none. We 
have noticed the singular inefficiency of the portrait- 
pictures exhibited of the Prince and Princess of Wales — 
Mr.Weigall's, in some degree, excepted ; but we fear that no 
such exception can be honestly admitted on behalf of the 
sculptors who have here served them to so little purpose. 
It is not in portraiture that Mr. Gibson has won his 
English reputation. There is, indeed, what cannot strictly 
be named " style," but still a certain echo of style, in his 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 864 8 1 

head of the Princess. The flesh is smooth and insipid; 
and the hair, by a common device, has been left unworked 
in order to make a contrast. Yet there is here some re- 
flection of the grace of the original, which will be looked for 
to little purpose in the head by Mr. Marshall Wood, which, 
although intended for the same, varies from it in almost 
every point — features, ears, and bust. The crude attempt 
to express the lateral recession of the forehead — that 
exquisite piece of natural form — is here very unpleasing in 
effect. The Prince has fared no better than his beautiful 
wife. Mr. Marshall Wood's bust is hardly above his last 
year's model. What ugliness, again, is there in that by Mr. 
M. Edwards, with its parallel lines of lace stretched over 
the tight uniform ! we cannot class it above the military 
busts exhibited by Mr. G. G. Adams. It may be alleged 
in excuse, that regimental dress is deficient in grace and 
beauty; yet the defect does not strike one in real life, 
because the eye is always drawn away from it to the 
living features. But this predominance of the head is 
precisely what feeble sculpture cannot give. An even 
more conspicuous exemplification of these remarks is 
afl'orded by the central figure of the group before us : the 
life-size "Prince Consort" by Mr. Theed. Those who 
have visited Blenheim will remember what the house- 
keeper points out with pride as a " dressed statue " of 
Queen Anne. We had thought that sculpture of this kind 
was now a recognized barbarism ; but Mr. Theed appears 
to have imitated it to the best of his ability in the figure 
before us, in which every item of dress and shooting appa- 
ratus has been reproduced with stifl" and elaborate minute- 
ness. This might serve, like the "Queen Anne," as a 
valuable study of costume ; but the human figure, and 
above all, the head (as one of the bS^*'*??'^F^Dfe'^^>£^ ^^^ 

rNIVERSITT 



au 

i 



s 

i 

t ^ 



82 ESSAYS ON ART 

would lead us to expect), have been sacrificed to the ac- 
coutrements. Indeed, in spite of excellent opportunities 
and repeated trials, Mr. Theed, so far as we have seen, has 
never yet succeeded in doing tolerable justice to the 
intelligent features of the Prince ; a result which will not 
surprise those who remember how difficult an art is por- 
trait-sculpture, and what large demands it makes on the 
genius and knowledge of the few who have been eminent 
in it. 

Etiquette, we believe, has promoted these works to places 
where they are cruelly in sight, and may perhaps have ham- 
pered their authors. It is not, however, by etiquette that 
the general mal-arrangement of the Sculpture-room can be 
excused ; nor need we have recourse to this explanation to I 
account for the favourable positions allotted to Mr. Weekes, 
the Academician sculptor on this year's Arranging Com- 
mittee, or for the bad light to which a few good works have 
been consigned. We cannot avoid noticing this, because 
the arrangement of sculpture obviously affects its visibility 
even more than it affects pictures. — There is a sprink- 
ling of tolerable likenesses, which, though very far from 
expressing what can be rendered by sculpture, may pass 
muster. Such are the Lady B. Clinton, by Mr. Durham, 
and two busts by M, Marochetti, which, though superficially 
modelled, and not free from the artist's passion for trick, 
we are glad to notice as a contrast, in their way, to the 
debased style of his life-size figures. We must also name 
*^ Henry Fielding," by Mr. Woodington, a fairly careful 
work ; a graceful head of a youth (898) by Mr. McDowell 
(whose bust of Mr. Pender is, however, one of the w^orst 
exhibited) ; a pleasing figure, " Penserosa," well felt in the 
lines, by Mr. Hancock ; Mr. Burnard's boy with a rabbit ; 
and a child asleep, by Mr. Munro, which, though it has the 



( 
i 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 864 83 

air of being modelled up from a painter's sketch by an 
amateur at an early stage, deserves a word of praise from 
the prettiness of the motif. Mr. Vanlinden's " Mother's 
Treasure" (876) may be also commended for grace; and 
Mr. Boehm, although his bust is in a bad, exaggerated 
manner, sends some statuettes displaying a cleverness that 
might be turned to purpose. " Erinna," by Mr. Leifchild, a 
careful work, falls below the " height of his argument." It is 
very heavy in the draperies, and wants feeling in the face. 
English architectural sculpture, as we have before noticed, 
is lamentably below par. Mr. Phyffer's bas-relief for the 
Farm Street Church looks tame. The " Last Supper," by 
Mr. Ruddock, designed for Ossett, is in the most unsatis- 
factory style of such work. It is a feeble picture mechani- 
cally modelled, such as those exhibited by Mr. Philip in 
1863, and which look even worse at St. George's, Windsor, 
than the models did in the Academy. 

One bust in the grand and thoroughly sculpturesque 
manner of Mr. Behnes is sent by Mr. Butler — "Professor 
Narrien." This, like other heads by Mr. Butler that we 
have seen, is careful and conscientious in every detail, and 
appears to convey a genuine likeness. The recent death 
of Mr. Behnes has made a serious gap in our exhibitions, 
which is rendered more sensible by the scanty appearances 
of our other sculptors of merit. Mr. Foley sends nothing ; 
and the two works in plaster by Mr. Woolner have been 
so placed that we can hardly observe the refined and 
powerful modelling of the features in his bust of Mr. 
Combe, which is remarkable also for that thorough and, 
as we might say, anatomical rendering of the hair, in which 
good art has always taken special interest. Mr. Woolner's 
medallion portrait (1049) is almost invisible. Another 

|»example of scandalous misplacement — scandalous, be- 
■ 



84 ESSAYS ON ART 

cause the space in each instance admitted easily of proper 
disposition — may be seen in the case of the charming 
girl's head by M. Megret (905). This, so far as we are 
allowed to judge, is tender in feeling and in handling. 
The style, though with modifications proper in marble, re- 
sembles strongly the present manner in oils adopted by the 
French painters of common life. Another French sculptor, 
almost equally ill-treated — M. Poitevin — sends what seems 
to us the best ideal work exhibited, in his "Joueur de 
Billes." This, whilst perhaps almost over-ingenious in its 
arrangement, is a brilliant and faithful study from life, and, 
so far as we know, is original, not less than graceful, in its 
motive. The masterly under-cuttings and through-cuttings 
in this work, and the skilful touching of the draper>^, 
should be studied by those who care to see what sculp- 
ture may be — an ideal which the long reign of manu- 
facture in England has done much to efface from the public 
mind. 

Meanwhile, it is certainly no pleasant task to go through 
the Sculpture-room and note successive failures. It is very 
difficult to draw lines of distinction here, or to specialize 
the particular deviations from truth, feeling, and knowledge 
of form, when so large a proportion of the busts, and even 
some full-length figures, have so slight a claim to these 
quahties that we doubt whether a French jury would class 
them as works of art. Such, then, we will name with the 
fewest words of comment ; absolute silence would be an 
injustice to the cause of art and to our better sculptors. 
Mr. McDowell's bust of Mr. Pender we have already noticed. 
Mr. Weekes, also R.A., sends a head of Sir G. Lewis, 
which has the air of being simply a reproduction of Mr. 
Weigall's picture exhibited in 1863, with all the features 
exaggerated. The down-drawn eyebrows and tapir-like 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 864 85 

projection of the upper lip render this as unpleasant a 
caricature of a fine head as any we can remember; and 
although modelled expressly for Westminster Abbey, the 
sculptor has not been at the pains to give his work the 
slightest monumental character. The style is merely that 
of a bust for a hall or drawing-room. If the Chapter allow 
it to pass, this will be one more of the tasteless incongruities 
which deform the Abbey. Why does it never seem to 
occur to the guardians of our Cathedrals, that the one 
thing to be seriously considered about the admissibility of 
a monument, is whether the art of it be good ? Without this, 
it will do no honour to a great man, or to a great building. 

No better is the full-length of John Hunter, also by 
Mr. Weekes. This has been placed in the best light the 
room furnishes, and no connoisseur can hence fail to ob- 
serve that here again the Academician has thought it 
enough to reproduce a picture — which, in this instance, 
is Reynolds' portrait. But that justly famous work, the 
most vivid head by the great painter, has suffered a 
sad transmutation. A theatrical attitude and scowling 
expression replace the rapt concentration of the original ; 
whilst (where this aid was less available) the modelling 
of the legs is inaccurate and tasteless : they are like 
poor Lord Clive's, whom M. Marochetti has put on his 
pedestal at Shrewsbury, in the attitude of a gentleman per- 
forming an eternal pas seul before all the market-women of 
the city. When these qualities are shown in marble work 
of the highly-paid order, it is natural that a figure executed 
under less exigent conditions should display even less felici- 
tous characteristics ; and accordingly, Mr. Weekes' full-length 
of Harvey, with its strangely distorted features,^ will rank 
amongst the too numerous bad statues which disfigure Mr. 
Woodward's beautiful Museum at Oxford. 



86 ESSAYS ON ART 

The fact that Mr. Weekes is one of the Academicians of 
England has imposed upon us the duty of analyzing work 
which, if passed over without protest, might be supposed 
by foreigners to be accepted as a legitimate expression of 
English art. The remaining sculpture may be more briefly 
characterized. What we observed last year of the modelling 
shown in the busts by Mr. G. G. Adams and Mr. A. Munro, 
applies with equal force to the heads of Mr. Heniy Taylor, 
Mr. Barker, Lord Seaton, and Archbishop Sumner, which 
they now exhibit. What is to be said of busts so low in 
artistic quality as these, several of which appear to be 
meant for memorials of the dead 1 One can only condole 
with the survivors. No wonder that spectators hurry by 
what is recommended by so little of beauty or fineness ; 
indeed, a criticism which we have seen on these works, to 
which Mr. Matthew Noble's " Lord Canning " must be added 
— that they are enough to " add a new terror to death " — 
appears to us not too severe. Several heads by Mr. C. 
Summers afford proof that our colonies are willing as yet to 
put up with the lowest standard of native manufacture. — 
When will friends and corporations learn that to be unsuc- 
cessfully done on a large scale is no compliment to any man ? 
We must hope that the design for another Albert Memorial 
by Mr. Durham is not destined to reach this stage. His 
model shows a heavy figure of the Prince, all tags and 
tassels, as Ave see him over the conservatories of the Hor- 
ticultural Society, placed on a circular plinth, to which four 
winged females are backing, as if in performance of some 
mystic dance. These figures are exactly alike, just as the 
similar ostrich-feathered angels were in M. Marochetti's ex- 
pensive Scutari Memorial. — Surely a great want of taste, 
invention, and labour is displayed by such a monotonous 
repetition ! Imagine four stanzas in an ode precisely the 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 864 87 

same ! — We do not know whether the Mr. Brodie who here 
exhibits a deplorable little figure, sentimentally styled " The 
Mitherless Lassie," be the sculptor who some years since 
sent a bad bust of Mr. Tennyson. This is modelled in 
a manner ' imperfectly imitating what has been called the 
'' naturalistic " school of modern Italy, in which the sculp- 
tor's aim is to do in marble what Madame Tussaud does 
in wax. 

The tame and textureless medallions by the Wyons, with 
the style of which our coinage has made everybody familiar, 
afford further examples of the state which the plastic arts 
have reached in England. But we must here quit this 
melancholy chapter. To see where we are wrong is said to 
be the first step towards doing better ; and we have hence 
not shrunk from a confession which it is no pleasure for 
an Englishman to make. Our school has fallen lamentably 
low, and is the derision of foreigners ; most of our sculptors 
display but little genius or knowledge ; we have but one or 
two men of practised skill and original gift : — such must, for 
the present, be the ever-recurring burden of the criticism 
on English sculpture. 

The sculpture-room contains also a remarkable fresco by 
rMr. A. Moore, which, notwithstanding some inaccuracies 
drawing (notably in the lower limbs), is both full of 
beauty and highly creditable to one of our youngest figure- 
painters. Four females, representing the Seasons, are 
iseated side by side, symbolical accessories and attitudes 
Kndicating at once their interdependence and their individu- 
lity. The work is too much cut up into thin lines, the 
aanner of the antique fresco or of the broken marbles of 
jreece having apparently been in the artist's mind ; but the 
Snes show an unusually fine instinct for grace, which we 
dope Mr. Moore will mature into perfect work. This 



88 



ESSAYS ON ART 



design, and an oil-picture from a Scripture subject which 
did not find a place in this year's Exhibition, appear to us, 
meanwhile, to justify hopes for the realization of which only 
study, and the mind that has Forwards for its motto, are 
required. Only ! . . , But there is more in this than we 
have now room to preach on. 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1865 



A GOOD average Exhibition ; a more than common number 
of interesting subjects ; fewer of glaring failures, except in 
the sculpture; two or three instances of steady advance, 
and more than as many of abilities mistakenly directed — 
such might be given as the summary of the year's Royal 
Academy, if an individual impression of this nature have 
any value. Or we might look at the Exhibition from 
another point of view, and say that the advance of the 
English School is so smooth and steady as to be almost 
imperceptible. Pre-Raphaelitism, whether in its genuine 
or its imitative form, is now little to be seen ; and all the 
painters whose work could not come near the " Huguenot " 
in precision and delicacy, accompanied by a chorus of Aca- 
demical critics, are congratulating Mr. Millais upon the 
change, much as the young lady in that masterpiece, with 
her good father confessor, would have blessed her lover had 
he reconciled himself to Holy Mother Church. Examples of 
Continental influence are also rare, and all that we heard, 
two years ago, of the recognized necessity for improving 
our design and toning down our colour has apparently gone 
back across the Channel, leaving indigenous merit to make 
its way after its well-known insular fashion. Great artists 
in France have their scholars, who are trained for years, as 
M. Paul Flandrin, for example, was trained by Ingres, in all 
the difficulties of art, before the pupils produce any inde- 



90 ESSAYS ON ART 

pendent work of their own ; but in our more favoured island, 
where art grows of itself, this laborious process is happily 
dispensed with, and every fashionable painter, or favourite of 
a close coterie of initiated flatterers, has at once a tail of 
imitators as long and almost as brilliant as the comet. 
Failures of the glaring sort, on the other hand, as we have 
said, are growing rare. We never see any picture now 
which, hke Turner's " Slaver" (at the time when we know 
he had so sadly fallen off), the Hanging Committee begin 
by putting upside down. Indeed, a curiously fair average 
level of work is characteristic of the present rooms; a result 
due in part to the uncommon taste with which the Execu- 
tive of this year has performed its onerous functions, and 
never conspicuously interfered with, except when the "line" 
has been claimed by certain among the Academicians. 
Meanwhile, undecorated originality makes its way as it can 
in that which conservative optimism assures us is the best 
of all possible Englands. Here and there, under favour of 
a painter who has shown himself liberal in proportion to 
his distinction, it comes in this year for a little visibility; 
but in general it has to content itself with remaining 
without the consecrated walls — we will not say, left out in 
the cold, but at any rate exercising little more influence 
than the once celebrated vox damantis in deserto^ whilst 
it is "taken down," taught the errors of "realism" and the 
glories of the " ideal," by Academical criticism. In short, 
the lesser world of the Academy, as it ought in a civilized 
age, represents pretty accurately the course of the larger 
world about it; and advances, as Mr. John Stuart Mill has 
it, more by the general elevation of the mass than by the 
force of leading and powerful individualities, who are rather 
suppressed than othenvise in favour of those gifted with 
the faculty for catching the common eye. 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 865 9I 

Enough of these general remarks. Only we would 
premise that it is of painting that we have been speaking 
hitherto — an art to the comprehension of which the public 
has educated itself up to a certain creditable point, and 
over which the public exercises consequently a very whole- 
some influence ; — profiting itself in turn by the lessons 
in good art which the painters, encouraged and upheld 
by national taste, give it. In sculpture, unhappily, the 
same comprehension and the same check appear to be 
still almost Avholly wanting. More money than ever, it 
is credibly stated, is now in course of expenditure upon 
marble-chipping and smoothing ; and artists of the calibre 
of Mr. Bell and Mr. Philip rival Phidias in the size and 
importance, at any rate, of the work they are executing 
for an Albert Memorial, being hence unable — witness also 
Mr. Theed and Baron Marochetti — to contribute their 
common quota of masterpieces to the Academy. And yet, 
in fact, we all know, and sadly have to confess it,— nobody 
believes in or cares for English sculpture, except the pros- 
perous few who fall thus within range of the genial shower 
which, if it cannot transmute ignorance into artistic skill, 
performs at least the more tangible metamorphosis by which 
bronze refines into gold, and bank-notes freely form them- 
selves upon the surface of the marble. In short, we can 
here only echo the verdict which we hear current on all 
sides, and pronounce the sculpture of 1865, if not intrin- 
sically worse than the sculpture of many former years, 
yet less redeemed by any productions of merit, and even 
more provokingly than in general crowded with pieces which 
attest at once the carelessness of the producers and of 
their patrons. But we shall return to this subject, and, 
like history, try to teach our philosophy, such as it is, by 
examples. 



92 ESSAYS ON ART 



Figure-subjects, as usual, hold so predominating a place 
among the pictures that we begin to wonder whether there 
ever really w^as a time when success in landscape deserved 
to rank as the special characteristic of the English school. 
Several pieces this year belong to the religious class, 
although indeed the artists rarely endeavour to take a 
Scriptural theme and fairly v/ork it out, contenting them- 
selves rather with proceeding by way of parable or single 
figure. Mr. Millais, whose versatility is one of the many 
'' notes of genius " which he gives us, has tried both modes, 
exhibiting in the latter class a girl sweeping through a marble 
doorway, and clothed in a gorgeous robe of yellow silk, em- 
broidered with a velvet pattern, which reminds one of 
Japan. The Catalogue names this figure — which, as a study 
of drapery and of forcible colour, leaves little to be desired — 
" Esther;" nor should we hold her English features, Japanese 
dress, and Greek palace serious impediments to a represen- 
tation of that Queen, if the appropriate character had been 
in any notable way impressed upon the figure. But in this 
respect, in company with so many saints and holy people 
by the old masters, the " Esther" lays no claim to individu- 
ality, and, like an apostle by Guido who has lost his emblem, 
we can only identify the figure by the inscription. An 
"Esau," by Mr. Watts, although unlike Mr. Millais' " Esther" 
in painting, being artificially low in tone and mostly slurred 
over in the execution, lies under the same disadvantage. 
This work has a somewhat grandiose character, and merits 
praise as a figure built up with well-considered lines; but 
the keen force, the Oriental sharpness of feature — the Arab, 
in a word — is wanting. Mr. Watts has some rare and 
precious gifts as a painter, and might easily, one would 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 865 93 

think, raise himself high above a mere succes d^estime. 
Why does he not put out all his force, and take the place 
to which his powers entitle him % 

By the " Esther" hangs the " Enemy sowing Tares," which 
Mr. Millais has now painted on a much-enlarged scale from 
the woodcut in that striking series of the Parables which we 
fear has not been so popularly appreciated as it deserved to 
be. More than in the case of the "Woman Seeking for 
Treasure," similarly adapted by the artist two years ago, 
something appears to be lost in this process. At any rate, 
the drapery and the landscape details, even when seen under 
twilight, would have borne with advantage a more careful 
study from nature, and more fulness in execution than were 
sufficient for the woodcut. It remains now to be added that 
a more forcible and vigorous piece of effect has rarely been 
produced, even by our most forcible Academician oil-painter. 
The lurid light in the sky behind, which forms a kind of 
diabolic halo round the " Enemy " (who is doing his bad 
work with an almost humourous energy), is astonishing. We 
should not be surprised if critics complained, as they did of 
the sunset in Turner's " Napoleon at Saint Helena," that it 
" put their eyes out." Light, whether from Heaven or else- 
where, is apt to do this ; and the imaginative relation of the 
sulphurous gleam here to the subject is so fine and so suf- 
ficent for effect, that we must take the liberty of entreating 
Mr. Millais to subdue the animal with fiery eyes who is 
grinning horribly in the background. Why people should 
raise (as they have raised) quasi-metaphysical difficulties, 
and dispute the aesthetic propriety of painting a parable, 
we cannot imagine. One would rather have been inclined 
to say that he who puts such a fable into colour does again 
precisely what he who puts it in words does. All we have 
to ask is, that the parable shall not suffer — that the new 



94 ESSAYS ON ART 

rendering shall be adequate. It is at least only on these 
grounds that we are dissatisfied with Mr. Herbert's " Sower," 
which, besides some defects in drawing, and a careless 
treatment of the nearer landscape, is weak and affected 
in its general air. This genteel "Sower," elegant as is 
the poise of his figure as he crosses the field, we fear 
can never hold his own against the " Enemy.^' The impress 
of the Scriptural story seems to us as little here as in the 
"Delivery of the Law" at Westminster. Mr. Herbert's 
" genteel style " is, in truth, not less alien from the Biblical 
spirit than the old Academical manner, with its carefully- 
selected attitudes and dresses laid out in irreproachable 
folds, of which M. Signol has this year given us a specimen. 
This is not unpleasing in its way, but the way is one nearly 
exhausted. 

Mr. Leighton may enjoy every year the pleasure of 
knowing that few pictures excite so much " questioning of 
heart" as those which he annually tries in the high or his- 
torical field. Public opinion upon them appears regularly 
to oscillate between admiration and its opposite. We accept 
this as a sign that there is at once much merit in these works, 
and that they want that something which is essential to suc- 
cess ; otherwise, in the course of the seven or eight years 
since the accomplished artist first made himself known, he 
would have secured a more definite place in general esti- 
mation. It is also worth noticing that, the larger the picture 
is in scale, the less appears to be its effect on the spectators. 
This is exemplified in the present exhibition, where Mr. 
Leighton's "Helen," in spite of the singular and spiritual 
beauty of the heroine's head, and the obvious refinement 
visible throughout, only adds one more to the many un- 
satisfactory translations of Homer, from which no number 
of failures appear sufficient to deter Englishmen. Mr. 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 865 95 

Leighton appears, in fact, to have followed in his Helen 
the famous " Palinode " of the poet Stesichorus, and in 
defiance of Homer himself, has here painted the living 
human creature for whom the war was waged, as a shadow 
who walked the streets and walls of Troy, whilst the real 
Helen was meanwhile detained in Egypt at the Court of 
Proteus : — 

ovK ecrr^ ervixos Xoyos ovros' 
ovB^ e^as kv vt]V(tIu €Vcre\/xOiSf 
oi5S' 'Ueo irepya/xa Tpoias. 

With a greater degree of success, yet still leaving the sense 
that the artist has attempted more, far more, than he has 
succeeded in reahzing, Mr. Leighton has treated his "David.'' 
The King sits in a dim twilight on his terrace, and watches 
the birds as they fly westward to that brighter land beyond 
the hills, which is reflected on the further side of the clouds 
that overhang the landscape. This, it will be seen, is in its 
idea a genuine piece of poetical feeling; it is a true em- 
bodiment of the Psalmist's phrase, eminently pathetic 
amongst many that are so, " O that I had wings like a 
dove, for then would I fly away, and be at rest ! " But 
David's head, although well studied, does not embody the 
grandeur and intensity of the Royal poet ; and the land- 
scape, unreal in tints and in outline, requires the text to 
explain its well-intended significance. In other points, 
also, the picture is not up to its mark. The hands are 
strikingly fine ; more expressive, to our fancy, than the 
features. The older painters used to repeat a subject ten 
times till, we may presume, they had " satisfied their ideal." 
And we should like Mr. Leighton to take up this beautiful 
theme again, and not be contented to rest till he had done 
justice to its high capabilities. One picture so wrought out 
would surely be a better lesson in art than fifty subjects 
half-mastered ; it would also be an enduring treasure. 



g6 ESSAYS ON ART 

Mr. BarvvelFs " Christ watching the Hypocrites" is another 
striking, though, more manifestly than Mr. Leighton's, im- 
perfectly realized design. The Saviour, a boy of twelve, 
has been suddenly struck at the sight of the demonstrative 
piety of the Pharisees, who are painted as literally " blowing 
the trumpet " before them, whilst they turn the poor away 
unaided. He seizes his Mother's arm with a well-caught 
natural gesture. The figure of the Virgin is too small for 
effect, and there are other points open to criticism ; but the 
whole, with all its naivete, shows a real originality of in- 
tention which would arrest one at once in a gallery of the 
early Italian or German masters — men who (a modern artist 
must sometimes think) often gained their reputation with 
but small expenditure in the way of thought or inven- 
tion. 

Mr. A. Moore's "Sacrifice of Elijah," rejected last year, 
has now found a place in the Exhibition. This picturesquely 
and originally designed work shows a row of worshippers 
kneeling opposite to Elijah, whilst the fire from heaven 
descends upon the sacrifice in the trench. Adoration and 
awe are admirably painted in the attitude and expression of 
these figures ; the prophet is less forcibly conceived, being 
too httle above the common Arab type ; but the landscape 
is well imagined, though coloured in a low key, which strikes 
us rather as an attempt in the modern French style than 
as a true specimen of that gradation which the French 
artists have reduced to system. This peculiarity in the 
colour also puts the picture to a disadvantage among the 
glaring conventional tints of its neighbours, but enough 
remains to make it one of the marked things of the Ex- 
hibition. We trust that the gifted designer will rather take 
this work for his point of departure than the classical scenes 
of which he has also given specimens, which seem rather 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 865 97 

to reveal study of the Elgin marbles than of that nature 
on which Phidias, if ever any artist, based his transcendent 
excellence. We are very glad, however, to find that we 
have again in Mr. Moore a painter keenly sensible to that 
beauty of line from which the pursuit of other qualities has 
in some degree diverted his contemporaries. Let him only 
not be satisfied with the easy praise which has ruined so 
many beginners, but put his gift on the sure foundation of 
truthful study, and he may do good service in the cause of 
our art. 

The " Haman and Esther," by one of our best trained 
designers, Mr. Armitage, may properly close our brief list of 
Scripture pieces. If he can add greater warmth in colour 
and dramatic intensity of conception, the painter ought to 
take the place in our school left vacant by Mr. Dyce. 
Mr. Armitage has never, in our recollection, done his 
powers more justice than in this fine work, which is so 
admirably disposed in its masses, and so skilful in its lines, 
that there would be no risk of failure if it were repeated in 
life-size on a church wall. The details are also studied with 
that accuracy which modern archaeology demands, and fur- 
nishes. Why, let us ask again, is a real painter or a real 
sculptor almost never employed to decorate any important 
building 1 Putting Westminster aside, we hardly know an 
instance, except what Mr. Watts, Mr. Dyce, and Mr. Wool- 
ner have respectively done at Lincoln's Inn, All Saints, 
and the Assize Courts of Manchester ; and whilst these 
artists, with others of similar standing, are persistently 
ignored, quackery and quaintness run riot in our memorials 
and churches. Nor is the evil we are complaining of 
likely to be remedied until patrons recognize that they 
cannot decide on these matters without definite and 
practical knowledge on their own part, or until, on the 

H 



98 ESSAYS ON ART 

Other side, our architects are trained as artists, and our 
artists take their share in architecture. 



II 

Incidents from history, or incidents which might have oc- 
curred, have for some years held an increasing space in the 
Exhibition, and seem to mark a transition from scenes of 
domestic Hfe and contemporary manners, while at the same 
time there is a scarcity of historical subjects strictly so 
called. The deficiency in the last class may also, perhaps, be 
partly due to accident this year ; Mr. Maclise and Mr. Cal- 
deron having sent no pictures, whilst Mr. F. Madox Brown, 
whose power in the high historical style is that which grows 
upon us in renewed visits to his collection, (described further 
on), exhibits elsewhere. Our history-pictures are accordingly 
represented now by works treated in what one may, without 
disrespect, speak of as the older manner, in which theatrical 
and melodramatic sentiment is apt to be predominant, while 
the dress has a tendency to be elaborate- without strict or 
valuable accuracy, and even, in its eifect, to overpower the 
wearer. Such seems to us to be the way in which the " Night 
of Rizzio's Murder " has been dealt with by Mr. Ward, who 
has combined these elements with considerable skill, and, 
by concentrating his subject within a comparatively small 
space, has told his story effectively; although we would 
venture to remark that, without a clear recollection of the 
actual facts, the cowering figure of Darnley (who was cogni- 
zant of the murder) would appear to be the intended victinj 
of Ruthven, rather than Rizzio himself Perhaps no scene 
in history presents a more odious combination of characters 
and passsions than this ; and although Mr. Ward has sue- 



THE ROYAL ACADExMY OF 1 865 99 

ceeded in seizing on the one feature in the "bloody business" 
which is not altogether beyond human sympathy, in the 
gesture and expression of Mary, yet it must be owned that 
the general impression is intensely unpleasant. Art here, in 
fact, trenches so closely on the morally frightful, and suggests 
so much of physical horror, that only a rigidly earnest and 
untheatrical representation could avoid failure in this respect. 
It would be hard, on all accounts, to try Mr. Frith's " Royal 
Wedding " by the true historical standard, or even by the 
standard — poor as we cannot help rating it — of his own 
natural style. This large picture ranks in art with the 
"Coronation" by Martin, Mr. Salter's "Wellington Ban- 
quet," or the " Reform Meeting at Glasgow " by we forget 
whom ; but, from the nature of the subject, it falls below 
them inpoint of pictorial interest. Few however, indeed, and 
far between, have been the painters who could lift a pageant 
of this nature, despite the deep human interest which lies far 
beneath the wedding finery, above the level of the hotel- 
parlour gallery. We will content ourselves with reminding 
those who care to examine the work in question from the 
side of art, of the refinement which Leslie threw into a 
nearly analogous scene from the life of our honoured 
Sovereign, or of the grace and gorgeousness displayed in 
the ceremonial pieces of Veronese. Mr. Frith's colour is 
chalky and spotty; his figures are like dolls from a first- 
rate toy-shop, not like life on a reduced scale : other artists 
seem to paint from models, he from marionettes. There is 
also a general missing of character in the heads, and one 
looks to little purpose for the elegance of manner and feature 
which must have been the dominant characteristic of the 
real scene. A vulgar dressiness pervades the court ; one 
would think it a crowd from Epsom or the Railway Station. 
Let us add one more technical remark on the quahty of 

H 2 



lOO ESSAYS ON ART 

Mr. Frith's work, that the nearer dresses are here elaborated 
with not less minuteness than in what we now so often hear 
of as the erroneous "pre-Raphaelite " style — only, unhappily, 
without gaining thereby any of that effect of truth and rich- 
ness which Mr. Millais or Mr. Hunt could produce by their 
mode of elaboration. 

Without entering into details it may be sufficient to enume- 
rate the names of Messrs. Elmore, Horsley, C. Landseer, 
Redgrave, Ansdell, and Faed as attached to pictures which 
do not differ in any marked way from the styles to which 
they have accustomed the spectator. We do not, of course, 
mean to class these artists together as men of equal power ; 
but they all appear to have so definitely fixed their manner, 
that their admirers need apprehend from them none of 
those perplexing changes with which creative genius is apt 
to distance its first lovers, as it passes, with a Raphael or a 
Milton, from the " Florentine " to the " Roman " period — 
from a Comus to a Paradise Lost. It is not from want of 
matter, but of space, that we forbear to analyze the style 
of the painters named, and to describe their present works. 
As it is, however, Non ragio?tam di lor^ via guarda e passa; 
and those who go by will, truth to say, find much to amuse 
and something to attract them. Let us note also that 
Messrs. Poole and Webster reappear now with a power 
and a freshness which are rarely shown when a man's gifts 
have been for some time in abeyance. The latter has a 
scene of village gossip, instinct with character, finely felt 
and marked. Although not strong in the execution, it is a 
better picture than the more powerful affectations of certain 
among our younger artists. Mr. Poole's drawing, we fear, 
will be to the end of time a stumbling-stone, not only 
to his friends, but to his reputation \ but his scene from 
Pompeii during the eruption is filled with well-imagined 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1865 lOI 

incident, and renders vividly the effect of that lurid and 
preternatural light which would arise when a midday 
southern sun is veiled by clouds of ashes, and reddened by 
"stealthy interminglings " from Vesuvian fire. Mr. Poole's 
ready and poetical inventiveness should substitute another 
figure for . that which too decidedly recalls one in Raphael's 
" Incendio del Borgo." 

We look with somewhat mixed feelings on what may, we 
suppose, be termed the rising schools of English and Scotch 
incident-painters.. Among the latter, Mr. Orchardson has at 
present the air of losing ground ; the less promising qualities 
in his work of the last two years having obtained in 1865 a 
certain prominence over the merits visible in his earlier pro- 
ductions. His " Hamlet and Ophelia " has many clever 
points, and the scene has been properly imagined as off the 
stage, but we do not gain so much as might have been ex- 
pected ; the two heads, especially Ophelia's, being poor and 
unsatisfactory in character. Mr. Orchardson's execution 
appears also to be verging on the flashy sketchiness of Mr. 
Pettie's ; the shadows especially are monotonous and con- 
ventional in colour, and a clay-cold tint predominates. 
Both these painters have shown qualities of invention which 
make us hope that they will not lose themselves in man- 
nerism or sentimentality. Mr. Noel Baton always aims at a 
higher province of art than the common class of incident, 
and his pictures are full of minute detail, not only natural, 
which he paints with great delicacy, but of that antiquarian 
character which cannot be obtained without pains and study. 
All this makes us regret that, like Mr. Edmund Reade in 
verse, Mr. Paton persists in attempting subjects which, 
judging from the results, must be pronounced quite above 
his abilities. He is an example of the intellectual illusion 
which mistakes interest in an art for power in it. The 



I02 ESSAYS ON ART 

pathos of his works (as in the Cawnpore picture of some 
years since) passes into the horrible ; the fancy shown has 
the cold, yet stilted, character peculiar to that imitation 
which a cultivated but unimaginative mind is so often led 
to attempt under the influence of great models. Mean- 
while any real gift which he may possess loses its value 
through the juxtaposition of work which has no true life 
in it. The picture now exhibited — a child in a little 
valley arrested by a vision of the" Fairy Queen and her 
court — exemplifies the above remarks. The foreground is 
full of beauty ; the child carefully though rather affectedly 
painted ; but the fairies are simply a row of dolls with 
waxen complexions. There is nothing aerial, or spiritual, 
or imaginative, about them ; they are as pure prosaic nine- 
teenth-century as Mr. Sandys' awkward personification of 
"Spring,'' or Professor Aytoun's ballads. Such must be 
inevitably the failure of those who, with whatever other 
qualifications, (in Plato's phrase), "approach the gates of 
the Muses without inspiration." 

The rising school of figure-painters whom one might call 
"semi-historical," in spite of Mn Calderon's absence, 
musters this year in considerable force. Mr. Marks heads 
the list, with a lively and amusing scene of "The Beggars 
coming to Town," the best composed and painted work 
which we remember from his pencil. The humours of the 
ragged troop are cleverly discriminated ; some have already 
assumed their part, in others the twinkle of the conscious 
mendicant eye has not yet faded. The town-dogs have 
come out to learn the news, and one sees the opinion upon 
the intruders which their sagacity has already formed. Other 
examples of advance may be found in the clever Henry 
VIII challenging a village clown to a cudgel match (Mr. 
Storey) ; in the " Young Knight armed " (Mr. Yeames), 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 865 I03 

which has, however, rather a studio-quality in the painting, 
and is unequally worked out, the " business " being hardly 
sufficient to fill the canvas ; and the " Preaching of Whit- 
field," by Mr. Crowe. This artist has a dry and hard 
handling, and appears to take little pleasure in his colour, 
although what he gives honestly attempts to render natural 
lighting — a rarer quality than one might imagine amongst 
oil-painters, sorely tempted to get effects by ingenious devices 
which they know will often pass muster. The scene which 
Mr. Crowe has painted affords a curious illustration of 
England during a century when, if religion had, as we often 
hear, sunk to a cold and worldly pitch, the counteracting 
impulse towards self-sacrificing enthusiasm existed after a 
fashion now little exhibited. The preacher, in full dress, 
is haranguing a small audience whom he has withdrawn 
from the rival attractions of a fair. Girls press forward 
eagerly ; one hands him notes from inquiring sinners, 
another has thrown herself on the ground in the ecstacy 
of awakened conscience. Soldiers and merry-andrews are 
playing off on the preacher their practical jokes, in which 
the grimness very much exceeds the humour. We would 
suggest that this picture would engrave well, and be likely 
to succeed. A name new to us in this style is that of Mr. 
Clay. In his large interior, " the French Court watching 
the Massacre of Saint Bartholomew," the artist appears to 
have introduced more material than he could successfully 
penetrate with the dramatic intensity of the moment ; but 
there is evidence of much pains and some good grasp of 
attitude, although the work is hung too high for seeing how 
the heads are painted. The figures stand back in a row 
from the opened window, through which comes the uproar 
of the massacre ; a lady's pet-dog smells a stain of blood on 
the floor, in suspicious contiguity to Cardinal Guise — a 



I04 ESSAYS ON ART 

well-imagined incident. At a still more unfavourable height 
hangs another elaborate scene by Mr. P. R. Morris, who 
has represented the wreck of an Armada vessel off the 
Western Island of Tobermory (Argyllshire), on which a 
nunnery was, or may have been, existing in 1588. The 
nuns, with two or three priests, have come out with torches 
and fire-signals to aid the distressed crew ; their faces 
appear too much alike, and there is a want of the firelight 
look about the group, which is treated with care and some 
animation. We are disposed to wish that this work had 
changed places with Mr. Hodgson's sixteenth-century scene 
of " Taking Home the Bride," which, with a certain charm 
in the colour and arrangement, leaves much to be desired 
in the drawing, both of the faces and the figures. We hope 
that this artist, who has given true promise of better things, 
will not relax in his endeavours, nor be satisfied with 
a half-success only. A little group of fisher children 
dabbling in a pool (T. Armstrong, 455) deserves notice. It 
has a strong air of unaffected truth in the drawing and 
expression of the children, and the colour, although in a 
rather low key, is effective. Mr. Wallis, again has made a 
step forward. His execution, singularly conscientious and 
elaborate, appears to be still in some degree in advance 
of his powers of combination. The figures in his larger 
work, "Sir Philip Sidney sitting for his Portrait to Paul 
Veronese," have too much the air of isolated groups, and, 
although bright in colour, do not form that complete and 
satisfying harmony which the very name of the great 
Veronese calls up. Hence Mr. Wallis perhaps succeeds 
more thoroughly in the smaller piece where he has painted 
the " Introduction of Spenser to Shakspeare." The older 
poet advances with a consciousness that he is in the presence 
of the mightier genius ] Shakspeare receives Spenser on the 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 865 105 

Other hand, with the look of one for whom a long-cherished 
wish is at last fulfilling itself : — an excellent piece of charac- 
ter-painting, involving no common difficulties. 

Remembering the more delicately executed and more 
carefully composed scenes with which Mr. Phillip, some 
years ago, founded his reputation as a painter of Spanish 
life, we doubt whether the brilliant " Early Career of 
Murillo " — which forms, we suppose, the most popular suc- 
cess of the Exhibition — will be rated quite so highly when 
its first charm has passed. The interest of the picture, 
together with the best of its painting, lies on the left side, 
where the bulky priests who inspect the young artist's can- 
vas, with Murillo's own figure, have a power and a sobriety 
in colour not unworthy of a scene which inevitably recalls 
Spanish art itself to one's remembrance. The interest, how- 
ever, is not adequately diffused ; a lusty peasant in red, who 
pushes forward in the middle, staring like a savage, and car- 
rying a rather coarsely-painted child, being unequal to the 
central place in the composition. The figures behind and 
beyond, on the other hand, are insufficiently wrought out, 
although the muleteer is very dexterously placed. A group 
of rough earthenware, of those charming tints and forms 
which civihzation and " block-printing " seem destined to 
destroy, with a heap of fruit, enriches the nearer foreground. 
On the whole, whilst cordially admiring the work, we feel 
that this is rather a case in which, according to the old 
proverb, " accident helps art," than an example of ad- 
vancing excellence — a hint which may be also suggested in 
regard to the clever scene from a Spanish bull-fight by Mr. 
Burgess, " Brava, Toro." This, in its common-place way, 
is an effective piece of work ; but one feels, as with 
Mr. Goodall's well-grouped Egyptian scene, that a native 
would, in either case, have dealt very differently with the 



Io6 ESSAYS ON ART 

subject. In the latter, the impress of local atmosphere 
is altogether wanting : it is Egypt with English effects. 
But the choice of themes such as these is a real gain above 
the pretty child and pinafore school ; they lend this Exhi- 
bition that interesting character which is the quality most 
strongly marked upon it. 



Ill 



We have now a group of figure-painters who exhibit a 
marked originality, and divide public interest with the older 
artists already noticed — attracting, no doubt, more especially 
their own contemporary generation, and hence not alto- 
gether free from the ill effects of coterie w^orship. Eccen- 
tricity is apt to be developed in the forcing-house air of 
flattery, and some specimens of it have found their way to 
Trafalgar Square. This quality displays itself, indeed, in the 
most conspicuous manner in Mr. Whistler s works ; but it is 
an eccentricity accompanied in him by such singular gifts 
and graces in art as to command forgiveness, even from 
commonplace spectators. Struck with the eminent beauty 
in colour and the ;^<35^/* inventiveness in design displayed by 
the Japanese, Mr. Whistler has not only studied their 
decorative painting till he has made its secrets his own, 
but seems now impelled to endeavour to reproduce it in 
England. Beautiful as are the studies he has thus given 
— the " Gold Screen " above all — and useful as such prac- 
tice may be in technical points, it is of course w^hen the 
artist chooses his subject from English life that he can not 
only astonish, but arrest us. Such is Mr. Whistler's " Little 
White Girl," a young lady in transparent muslin, standing 
with one hand — most gracefully felt, but less than half- 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 865 I07 

painted — upon a common mantelpiece. There is nothing 
in the rooms, not even by Mr. Millais, which can stand its 
ground against the soft purity, the full undertone of exquisite 
tint, in this sketchy picture. The tenderness, for instance, 
with which the girl's arm, as it were, warms the sleeve, is 
something that, as Mr. Ruskin once said of Turner, can 
rather be felt than pointed out ; and it is worth while com- 
paring this (only one of many such evidences of genius 
which might be named) with the complete failure to reach 
the same effect in Mr. Sandys' elaborately Wrought " Spring." 
But, though finish may only make a picture worse, when ill 
employed, this does not render slovenliness virtuous ; and 
until Mr. Whistler chooses to put heads and hands at least 
on a level with screens and dresses, we fear he will not rank 
above that class which the French name amatetcr-prodige. 
He has a landscape, however — all English gray and damp, 
in place of Oriental brightness — in which, hung at least as 
it is, there seems little for his admirers to wish added. This 
view of Old Battersea Bridge has nothing equal to it here — - 
little like it, except Mr. Mason's work — in its palpable and 
delightful truth of tone. It is, what every landscape should 
be, rather an inlet into nature through a frame than what we 
commonly mean by a picture. 

Refinement in tone is Mr. Whistler's " speciality." Al- 
though Mr. Leighton strives after it, and has given examples 
proving that he appreciates it, we do not think that he will 
be held successful in this province of his art. His colour- 
system is peculiar — never commonplace, rarely pleasing, 
more often taking from the effect of his works than adding 
beauty to beauty. But Mr. Leighton has another species 
of refinement, which those who know how absolutely this 
quality, in some one at least of its different manifestations, is 
the mark of the true artist, will value highly. In comment- 



to8 ESSAYS ON ART 

ing on the artist's " Helen," we noticed the delicate beauty 
of the principal head. The same quality reappears, where 
the scope and size of the works do not so much neutrahze 
its effect, in several of his small pictures. The infant caress- 
ingly gathered up within reach of its mother's arms (120), 
and pressing cherries upon her with a young child's assi- 
duity, is exquisite in its refinement ; nor is the sentiment of 
the whole scene less so, although the frequent inequality of 
this painter's work appears in the mother's figure, which is 
rather languid in pose, and does not sufficiently explain 
itself in its action. Two little scenes, both apparently placed 
in St. Mark's, Venice (though the colouring does scanty 
justice to that lovely building), and both repeating a mother 
and child, are more thoroughly brought into harmony ; the 
"Widow's Prayer" having the most of subject, the other 
the greater charm in linear arrangement. The child in the 
latter has the free play and gracefulness of the Gainsborough 
or Stothard style, now, as we remarked when speaking of 
Mr. A. Moore, rarely seen in English art. 

The Millais of the year so soon becomes everybody's talk, 
that, a month after the Exhibition has opened, there is no 
need to describe it. What a publication, we may remark, 
is that which a powerful and popular painter obtains from 
the Academy ! Hardly any book, of a kind fairly com- 
parable with art of this nature, now approaches it in the 
speed and vividness of the impression excited. The diffu- 
sion of Mr. Dickens' tales, when at their best, or of a new 
volume by Mr. Tennyson, may perhaps have come the 
nearest. Our readers will all have seen the Roman soldier 
leaving England and his long-haired British wife, or have 
read descriptions of it. With or above Mr. Phillip's " Mu- 
rillo," it is the success of the year in figure-painting. Much 
more effect and passion might, indeed, we venture to think, 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1865 IO9 

have been thrown into the scene, had portions of the nearer 
landscape (the shghtness of the ably designed distance is 
rather apparent than real), the subsidiary figures, and, above 
all, the dresses and heads of the principal group, been 
carried even near the perfection of the " Huguenot." Yet, 
as it is, the idea of the picture, the force and simplicity 
with which it renders one of those elementary phases of 
feeling which never lose their charm, and the fine treatment 
of parts — notably the soldier's outstretched arm — put it into 
the higher circle of English art. Observe here, also, the 
truth and originality with which Mr. Millais has kept the 
girl's right hand close to her lover's head ; a commonplace 
artist Avould have flung the whole arm around the kneeling 
figure. The suppressed fury of heart-breaking, half grief, 
half impotent rage, is equally well indicated (though, as with 
the hand just noticed, indicated only) in the swelling throat 
and compressed lips of the British wife. It must be remem- 
bered that the retiring flood of Roman garrisons left the 
natives of England to no merely personal sorrows. " The 
Picts drive us on the sea, and the sea drives us back upon 
the Picts." One would have thought the natural and his- 
torical truth of this would have " leapt to the eyes," as the 
French say, at once ; yet we have seen criticisms which 
seemed dissatisfied that this wild creature did not express 
her grief and shame with the devotional decorum of one of 
Vandyke's Magdalenes. 

Mr. Hughes and Mr. Lewis rank also among the artists 
who add signally to the charm of this Exhibition. The 
"Turkish School near Cairo," by the "Academician Elect" 
(looking at the excellence of Mr. Lewis's work, one would 
be inclined to reverse the order of the words), is a marvel- 
lous piece of genuine Orientalism, as true to Egyptian local 
colour as Mr. Whistler's is to Japanese, and wrought out 



no ESSAYS ON ART 

with a power over varied character in the heads which the 
artist just named does not aim at. Drowsiness pervades 
the place ; the bright dresses, furniture, and casements glow 
and flicker in the sunlight ; but sleep is the only lesson 
learned, except by the cat, who is making free with a child's 
stock of provisions. Mr. Lewis, as long ago noticed, appears 
to have a peculiar power in rendering the lower phases of 
human activity ; and he is hence seen to most advantage 
when, as in the " School," nature falls in with art. In his 
lovely garden of Eastern flowers he is not so happy. A girl 
may indeed look less animated and brilliant than the rose 
or the lily, but in that case she should not, we think, be 
the central flower of the garden. Her dress is managed 
with singular mastery, at once broadly and delicately 
painted ; and the skill which has brought the gathered 
flow^ers in the vase sufliciently forward before those growing 
just beyond should not be overlooked. An inequality in 
his w^ork, showing itself sometimes in the proportions of 
the figures, sometimes in the colour, still impedes Mr. A. 
Hughes from taking the place in art to which he is entitled. 
We have no painter who throws more tender and poetical 
grace into subjects of the incident or domestic class, or who 
seems so little indebted to others for the idea of his work. 
A modest originaHty ! The single figure of '' Beauty," from 
the famous old legend, is the most complete of the three 
pieces which he now exhibits. A little more relief and 
roundness is only wanting to its delicacy of feeling and 
translucent brightness of colour. The hands have that 
refined quality mentioned above ; there is more of the lady 
in them than in the whole of Mr. Frith's wedding-party, 
although the best-born of our beauties are included in his list. 
Men paint, not what they see, but what they feel ; what is 
in their minds tells itself through their fingers. Compared 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1865 III 

with Mr. Hughes' colouring, that of M. Ribot, in his French 
tinkers at work on a coffee-pot (547), looks artificially dark 
and grim ; but this picture is full of power and character. 
The arms are singularly well drawn, and the whole has that 
look of trained completeness in which the school of France 
contrasts so favourably with ours — a confession which con- 
siderations both of honesty and of good policy must compel 
an English critic to venture on. 

A striking scene from the Roman Amphitheatre by Mr. 
Solomon has attracted an attention which its original power 
well deserves, although some portion of its effect is, we 
think, due to quaintness — indeed, perhaps, even to that in- 
completeness in the drawing, and that conventional mono- 
tone prevalent in the colouring, which assist in giving the 
whole a character unlike ordinary work. The heads of the 
women are too much alike, and one does not distinctly see 
where the light comes from ; perhaps the diffused daylight 
produced by the " velarium " is here intended. Allowing, 
however, for some deficiencies which a strong and conscien- 
tious painter will correct as he advances, enough remains to 
leave an impression of real power. We see the ladies of 
the Imperial household as they might have felt for the 
thousandth time when the order to despatch an unsuccessful 
gladiator had been given. The Empress has a languid air ; 
by her side a fierce and fair woman turns down her thumb 
in sympathy with the order for death. A black-haired lady 
who looks on with some horror strikes us as the best head 
in the group. If the besetting temptation of our rising men 
to yield to the first flush of praise be overcome, and this 
work be regarded rather as a promise than a fulfilment, Mr. 
Solomon may reach the place in English art which some 
not less gifted contemporaries, we fear, will now never " cast 
aside self" sufficiently to master. Lastly, we should men- 



112 ■ ESSAYS ON ART 

tion Mr. Wynfield's " Last Days of Queen Elizabeth " as 
ranking amongst the best of the smaller quasi-historical 
wqrks exhibited. 

IV 

The excellent general arrangement of this year's Exhibi- 
tion has been already incidentally noticed. The favour 
with which the public have accepted it, and the satisfactory 
result to the display as a whole, may serve to silence, if 
not to satisfy, those Academicians who incline to believe 
that the frequent criticisms on this subject are altogether 
the outcries of disappointed outsiders. The comparative 
weakness of our Landscape School is, however, rather 
brought forward by the fairness of the hanging. Styles also 
(as we have before noticed), change less here, except in a 
few very highly gifted hands, than in figure-painting, and 
hence leave less need for comment. Mr. Creswick, the 
Linnells, Mr. V. Cole, with others reaching a good level in 
landscape — such as Mr. Leader, who shows increasing deli- 
cacy and brightness in some very pleasing Welsh scenes, 
and Mr. M'Allum, who falls considerably below his usual 
mark — may be included under these general suggestions, in 
which inevitable brevity implies no disregard of the artists' 
contributions. Mr. Stanfield has a beautifully-felt passage, 
including Tantallon Castle, in the middle distance of his 
*' Bass Rock ; " and an Italian scene by him is also tenderly 
handled. The sentiment which he thus gives supplements 
what may have been wanting to the greater precision of his 
earlier handling. With this distinguished veteran, whose 
seas, though spacious and grandly drawn, are deficient in 
liquidity of colour, sea-painting as such appears to be at 
present in abeyance. Mr. Lee and Mr. Cooke here follow 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1865 II3 

their old paths, the former also repeating, in his views on 
shore, those crude touches for effect and that cold emptiness 
of tone which are disagreeably conspicuous in his land- 
scapes. The " Hastings Trawler," by Mr. Johnson, has 
better sea-painting in it : but it is from shore that our oil- 
colourists now treat ocean best. Mr. Hook has now trans- 
ferred his easel to the shores of North Brittany : lingering 
still, it will be observed, among those Celtic races whose 
ways and characters appear to have a peculiar attraction 
for his idyllic genius. His four views now exhibited give 
each a version of wave, beach, and sky — individualized 
indeed by slight and refined differences bet,ween the effects 
chosen, yet, as is the painter s wont, never going far from 
the same aspect of summer serenity, and peopled with 
groups who may all have been members of one family. The 
arrangement of these figures, with that happy look of nature 
which Mr. Hook can always give, is free this year, some 
minor points excepted, from the want of balance which has 
been noticed sometimes in his work ; the complexions are 
rather uniform ; the back grounds occasionally come rather 
too forward. In point of sky or water it would be difficult 
to choose between these works ; but the effect of the " Sea- 
weed Gatherer " — a girl walking by a sweep of coast, and 
trailing the weeds after her with a rake, whilst a child imitates 
the action behind — appears to us the most complete and 
harmonious. The green line of fresh weed thrown up and 
left by the last tide is effective in binding the composition 
together. Another beautiful bit of sea-coast scenery, also 
including a shining curve of bay, is Mr. J. P. Knight's 
" Oxwich." The water is here seen through a graceful half- 
circle of lightly leaved trees ; a bank of clouds rests on the 
horizon. The headland to the right and the upper sky 
might have more relief. Mr. Naish and Mr. Hemy send 

I 



114 ESSAYS ON ART 

some careful studies from the Clovelly district. The latter 
works in a style of great delicacy, and has drawn the 
pebble-strewn beaches with accurate refinement ; might 
he not now gain greater force by varying the scene of his 
practice ? We would suggest the same to Mr. Naish, whose 
sailors watching the boat wrecked in winter and now repaired 
for a fresh cruise (288) have that look of actual life which 
never fails to make its way to the mind. A pretty group of 
women and girls making nets in a Breton cottage (F. Smythe, 
281) hangs near Mr. Naish's picture, and seems to promise 
well. It is gay and animated, and bright without tawdri- 
ness. Notice i^ also due to Mr. Carrick's " Ogmore Castle," 
a careful study of a little Welsh valley and ruin, very true to 
the rich, the almost crude, effect of brightness in the air and 
greenness in the grass when summer rain clears off; to Mr. 
H. Moore's vivid v/oodland scene, " Near Hartland Abbey;" 
to the prettily grouped and painted " Midsummer Day," a 
row of children at dinner in a hayfield (W. Field) ; to Mr. 
Burke's " Connemara Valley ; " and to Mr. Mawley's two 
views of a marsh edged by trees, which want more round- 
ness (118 and 278). There is some good foreground paint- 
ing, and a well-drawn hill-distance, in Mr. W. H. Baton's 
" Lochaber ; " pretty colour and sentiment in Mr. R. Butler's 
" Autumn Scene ; " careful study of waves breaking in over 
a long range of low rocks in the '^ Dunnottar Castle " of 
Mr. Oakes ; a good solid tone and power of making an 
uncomposed scene look well in Mr. G. Sant's " Middleton 
Meadow ; " and highly studied detail bestowed on a rather 
ungrateful subject, in the ''' Morant's Court" of Mr. Brett. 
A fine tropical view by M. Mignot (565) has the qualities 
which we have often noticed in this interesting artist's work. 
No one fails to be interested in Sir E. Landseer's portrait 
of himself between two favorite dogs. They have often sat 



' THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF1865 II5 

to him before, and now sit by him in their turn, and criticize 
the sketch on which he is at work. The animated head 
deserves to be brought more forward, from the pale colours 
in which it has been grounded. Compared with the im- 
posing air which painters are apt to give themselves in their 
own portraits. Sir Edwin's is humorously characteristic of 
the artist. The companion pieces — a lady's hack in gloss 
and glory (and admitted, by the bye, to tread her croquet- 
ground itself — he must be a spoiled favourite), and a cab- 
horse, worn, wrung, and reduced to low company — rank 
with the artist's best efforts in painting the horse. They 
will, no doubt, be known before long, through engravings, 
on the Continent hardly less than at home — a privilege 
accorded to few of our insular celebrities. 

We are glad to see that Mr. Wells varies the practice of 
portrait by landscapcr— a union of styles for which he can 
easily find great precedents. His " Farmyard at Evening " 
has an impressive sobriety of tone which wants more grada- 
tion to achieve the effect aimed at by the artist. The 
trees are well discriminated. Mr. Anthony's best picture, 
a village church seen between tall trees (526), is manly 
and unaffected, and skilful in the use of gray. Here a last 
gleam of crimson light rests for a moment on the upper 
battlement of the tower ; the evanescent look of this faint 
flicker is well suggested. There is a feeling in both these 
works which approaches the poetical ; a remark under which 
we would also indude the noble view over the Dunes of 
Artois, by Mr. W. B. Davis. This painter, whose work, by 
its subjects and its treatment, attests foreign influence, has 
given a remarkable proof of that prudent progress which is 
commoner in French than in English art. Having painted 
small-sized scenes for several years with great care and 
delicacy, he now gives the fruit of his study in a well-con- 

I 2 



Il6 ESSAYS ON ART 

sidered and successful picture on the fullest landscape scale. 
This view of low sandhills, covered with the arid vegetation 
of the sea, over which a strayed herd, drawn with great 
variety and truth of attitude, are coming, seems to want, like 
Mr. H. Davis's former works, some centralizing' interest, 
whether in the figures or in the colour effect. It hence 
rather approaches the poetical (observe the exquisite golden 
glow on the further hills and in the truly laughing sky, a 
quality of tint gained by sheer good painting) than absolutely 
deserves the epithet. Mr. Mason, like Mr. Whistler, seems 
to us to reach poetry on canvas through the harmonious 
unity which marks each of his three scenes. All these have 
the air of effects at morning or at twilight taken from the 
same wild piece of nature. They appear to stop a little 
short of completion, as if the gifted painter had feared lest 
the bloom of his delicate transparent atmosphere should be 
injured by further touches. The figures — children in two of 
the pieces, a traveller with a pony in the third — are sketched 
with singular beauty, truth, and refinement ; we doubt 
whether anything in the Exhibition fully equals them in this 
respect. They are also better placed, fall more naturally 
into the scene, than Mr. Hook's. It is pleasant to see that 
Mr. Mason, whose merits were long neglected, has now 
found admirers both among the public and his fellow- 
artists. Few landscapes will be more sought after than 
his in future years. 



A strict observance of the salutary rule to notice only 
works which rise above the average level, or display evidence 
of new aims on the artist's part, would confine our criticism 
on Portraiture within narrow limits. Men here cr}^stallize 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1 865 II7 

early, and, if they keep to this branch of the art, seldom 
exhibit any development except a too -often increasing want 
of care and variety. Something of this is due to the mono- 
tony of the work ; the proper study of man may be man, 
but not man (we presume) as he looks when stereotyped in a 
studio chair. An even more powerful source of degeneracy 
must be also traceable to that want of training in the figure 
under which most of our painters labour, and which, when 
once the lucrative tide of portrait popularity has set in, leaves 
as little time for the Academician to make himself a thorough 
artist, as (it may be feared) to recognize that he has perhaps 
never yet been one. Add to these depressing causes, that 
in England the art of Reynolds and Gainsborough — imper- 
fect in some respects, though exquisite in everything — 
pitched the key for our portraiture, which has gone down 
through gradations of flimsiness, want of ease, want of 
drawing, and want of force, until some such determined 
protest as that which Mr. Holman Hunt has made in the 
able group exhibited in Hanover Street under the name of 
" The Children's Holiday," becomes necessary to redeem 
the style from total decadence. Mr. F. Grant and Mr. Knight 
may be regarded as good typical examples of a manner 
which, whatever abihty may be assigned to, or may once 
have been shown by, the artists, must still be judged by the 
results to be a thoroughly false direction. Mr. Swinton, 
Mr. Hart, and Mr. Buckner belong to lower stages. Some- 
thing different, if not better, is aimed at by Mr. G. Rich- 
mond ; but here long practice in water-colours would alone 
have been a serious impediment to success in oils, whilst 
want of power over figure-drawing becomes unavoidably 
more detrimental in life-size work. These defects come 
saliently forward when, as in the sketch exhibited of an 
Indian Princess (207), a thin and garish -colouring, which 



115 ESSAYS ON ART 

in the flesh is laid on in Hnes, not in masses, suggests by con- 
trast what might have been made of a subject so naturally 
rfch. Even the jewels here look like cheap glass imita- 
tions. The forms are also weak — a defect which reappears, 
with cruder colour, in the portrait of the Bishop of Oxford, 
whose versatile and intellectual features have been very 
poorly grasped. This was described as an " idealized 
treatment " in contemporary criticism — a use of the word 
from which we venture to dissent altogether. ** Idealized " 
is simply that which most deeply and essentially renders the 
idea of the thing represented — strength where the man is 
strong, ambition where he is ambitious — ^which makes him 
look devout if devotion be the leading quality, subtle if it 
should happen to be subtlety, and so forth. To take a power- 
ful head, and render it with weak features and expression, so 
far from " idealizing," is rather to miss the idea. Mr. Weigall 
is the rising artist in the field which the above-mentioned 
portrait-painters have so long occupied. We might describe 
his work as standing in the same relation to real portraiture 
in which fashionable gossip stands to real conversation ; and 
among those who prefer the former kind of talk, will be 
found the best admirers of the portrait-painters in question. 
Returning to Mr. Weigall : — Tolerable in its w^ay, and not 
often or always so mechanical as success generally renders 
fashionable portraiture, there is little promise in his work — 
none of the struggle to improve which Mr. Sant and 
Mr. Wells, with varying success, exhibit. The latter artist 
sends an elaborate group of portraits in action, three girls 
making up a tableau vivant. With much merit, the diffi- 
culty here (a difficulty which has foiled many artists) is, on 
the whole, rather turned than conquered. 

Mr. Boxall, by his thoughtful grace and truthful air of 
character, rises very much above the average level, wanting 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1865 II9 

only more force and decision in colour and expression to 
take the place which he seems alv/ays to approach with- 
out quite attaining. The heads he now sends are good 
specimens of his style. Two portraits by Mr. Robertson 
(246 and 319), which have the look of good drawing, life- 
likeness, and cold colour, are hung beyond range of sight. 
A delicately painted girl's head, by Mr. Poynter (335), and 
the spirited " Mr. Bowman," by Mr. Watts, have properly 
gained accessible places. The animation and brightness 
of the latter head deserved more careful drawing in the 
dress ; and what does the brown shadow upon the left 
cheek stand for ] 

Three artists, Messrs. Ercole, Baccani, and Lowenthal, 
send portraits which all point to the great advantage of that 
foreign training in art to which reference has been made. 
This gives to work which, like that of these painters, may 
possess no marked power, an air of style ; nor, we imagine, 
can that often-discussed quality be otherwise obtained. The 
excess of such training, on the other hand, appears in the 
smooth finish of M. Lehmann's " Girl with a Distaff : " for 
Art, like morality in Aristotle's scheme, lies in a mean 
between opposing errors. 

The present time will probably be looked on in future 
years as the nadir of English sculpture, just as the lowest 
point of our imaginative poetry is assigned by Mr. Hallam 
to the reign of William and Mary. Perhaps, to the patrons 
of that age, ignorance or personal acquaintanceship may 
have represented Blackmore or Fen ton as great poets, as 
Garth was put above Dryden, and Boyle was preferred to 
Bentley by the aristocracy of Christ Church. Such patrons, 
whether in the Court or the city, would have complacently 
smiled or sneered at the critics who were not wanting to 
predict the collapse which a very few years would bring, 



I20 ESSAYS ON ART 

and actually did bring, upon the writers in question ; and 
those who make a similar prophecy now with regard to the 
leading favourites of the sculpture -patronizing class can 
afford to confront the same fate. Yet there is really no 
rashness in asserting that ignorance of nature and want of 
skill in art can produce nothing of value, and that the brief 
gust, hardly so much of popularity as of patronism, which 
supports our Spratts and Blackmores in marble will not sur- 
vive them. AVe have more than once shown, by reference 
to actual fact, why it is that English sculpture rouses but a 
languid feeling at home, and has no recognition among 
foreigners. The story is told in two words. The modern 
practice of putting up public statues and monuments, with 
the demand for portrait-busts, has called into activity a 
number of patrons who commission sculpture without 
having taken the pains to learn its first elements, and a 
number of practitioners whose work shows more or less 
incompetence for the difficult art which they profess. 
Want of knowledge of natural form, want of effect in 
modelling, want of mind and of cultivation, are con- 
spicuously marked upon nineteen out of twenty works 
exhibited. One would think them the productions of 
journeymen or of schoolboys. Whether the general in- 
competence might not, in some instances, have been ex- 
changed for skilled labour under a better training and a 
more educated and exigent public taste, it is no part of 
our business to ask here. What we have to do is to pro- 
test against any further waste of money, and further infliction 
of deformity on our cities, through the slovenly style of 
work now prevalent. 

Let us illustrate these remarks by examples in Trafalgar 
Square. Sometimes the low state of our school is shown 
in simple commonplace, reflecting a few ancient types 



k 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1865 121 

without force ; as in the life-sized " Eve," by Mr. Mac- 
Dowell, R.A. a statue in which figure, attitude, and features, 
present not one single trace of conformity to the in- 
tended subject. Mr. MacDowell has done better things ; 
here his work is really little above the level of Mr. 
Noble's " Purity." Sometimes it appears in an imitation 
of the corrupt modern Italian style — witness the boy by 
Mr. J. Adams (II Giuocatore), with his curiously-shaped 
legs and right heel a good half-inch too long, grinning 
with all his might at a frightful dog ; or a lady's head (928), 
by the same hand, her eyes so magnificently large as to 
leave no space for the frontal and cheek bones, and her 
expression that of a waxen beauty in a perfumer's window. 
Or we descend to (perhaps) worse modelling, combined 
with similar sentiment, in the marble confectionery of 
Mr. Trentanove (Flora), or the ''Violet and Henry," by 
Mr. Alexander Munro, where the limbs and faces are so 
shapeless and boneless that the group looks as if it were 
already decomposing, in Tennyson's phrase, "into lower 
forms." This artist appears bent upon sacrificing the sense 
of grace which was a redeeming point in his earlier works. 
Or — power to model the human form remaining still in 
abeyance — we reach the stiff lifelessness of Mr. Lawlor's 
" Captive," or Mr. J. Bell's " Cherub with Primroses," 
where the aim appears to have been simplicity, but the 
result emptiness. Nor, although his work gives evidence 
that some care has been taken, can we honestly make 
an exception here in favour of Mr. Durham, who sends 
a group of two children (904) which one would really 
think was carved in what geologists call lignite — wood 
converted into stone ; with a vacuous-looking boy holding 
a wreath, his limbs embarrassed how to place them- 
selves, and apparently on a journey nowhere, which the 



122 ESSAYS ON ART 

catalogue assures us is a " reduced model of the statue 
of Alastor, commissioned by the Corporation of London, 
and placed in the Mansion House." A boy's prose para- 
phrase could not miss out the imagination and beauty of 
Shelley's wonderful poem more perfectly. But there is 
nothing in this to surprize those who know the after-dinner 
patronage of art which prevails in Corporations and 
" commercial centres." 

We have not exhausted our list of attempts^ all demon- 
strating, in different ways, what must be the result when 
the most arduous and the most intellectual of the arts 
of design is approached without due training. The im- 
perfect imitation of the French style in Mr. Leifchild's 
" Pensiero," where the drapery reveals the same elementary 
inattention to nature which we have marked as characteriz- 
ing the works just noticed j the penmanlike curves and 
chisel sweeps in Mr. Woodington's Lady from " Comus ; " 
the extravagance of Mr. Boehm's terracottas, or of his 
marble bust (Lord Stratford), where, — exactly as in M. 
Marochetti's busts, — a spurious effect has been gained by 
the brilliant device of suppressing every natural detail except 
the leading features — all are warnings of a similar kind. 
And yet from this exhibition are wanting other familiar 
names, dearer to their patrons than to art, who are all 
essentially, and we must fear by this time irrecoverably, 
ranked among those whose place as artists, in Mr. Ruskin's 
outspoken phrase, lies "somewhere in the abyss." Nor 
are matters improved when we turn to so comparatively 
simple a field as portrait-busts. Here, in addition to 
two or three already enumerated, we may name, and con- 
tent ourselves Avith naming, Mr. Weekes, R.A., Mr. G. 
G. Adams, Mr. Marshall Wood, and the Messrs. Papworth, 
as prominent exhibitors of exactly what (if the art of better 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF 1865 1 23 

hands or times, and the nature which never varies, be 
any standard for judgment) busts should not be. One 
asks oneself where the proprietors mean to conceal this 
series of careless surfaces and misshapen forms, which, to 
eyes trained by the standard of nature, have the repulsive 
effect of skulls ranged within a mortuary chapel. Worse 
perhaps than any, not so much for its greater intrinsic bad- 
ness as for the magnitude and indignity of the failure, is 
the head of Mr. Gladstone by the Mr. J. Adams whose 
" ideal " work we have above spoken of. A boy whose first 
attempt at a face should be no better than this would receive 
small encouragement to touch clay again from any rational 
schoolmaster. Mr. J. Adams, by a sort of inversion of Mr. 
Danvin's theory, uppears to lie under the impression that the 
human species is rapidly returning to the gorilla type. He 
has selected Mr. Gladstone, of all people in the world, as a 
leading instance of this process, and has in turn been selected 
by the patrons of art in Liverpool to perpetuate his idea in a 
colossal figure of the Chancellor ! In the interests of the 
great, western port, let us hope that a commission which 
threatens so ill will be revoked, if there be any sense among 
Mr, Gladstone's fellow-townsmen of what is due to his 
features, taste, or wishes. 

We have devoted the more space to this surprizing bust, 
as we did a year or two since to one by Mr. Marshall 
Wood, because, from reasons which we shall fully explain 
in a later Essay, there is so little free criticism of sculpture 
in England that those who value the welfare of the 
art are compelled to protest frankly against the inroads 
of fresh incompetence. In certain cases, however, such 
protests are less likely to have due effect ; and if the 
liberal donor of Mr. Durham's "Prince Albert" to the 
Framlingham College be satisfied that the robed and tas- 



124 ESSAYS ON ART 

selled effigy here exhibited in the model resembles the 
lamented Prince, or indeed resembles the "human form 
divine" in any degree beyond what we ordinarily find in 
a ship's figure-head, really there is nothing to be done for it 
but to bow and look another way. As we turn, however, let 
us call attention to the anatomy of the left arm, which starts 
from the shoulder as if meaning to go behind the figure, 
and is then found presently falling straight down — a po- 
sition for which only a compound fracture could account. 
Even the hand which professes to hold the hat cannot 
perform so simple an action, the thumb having been so 
carelessly modelled as not to touch it ! — We forbear criti- 
cizing the likeness. 

Some of the very least competent artists who now exhibit 
or are absent (no doubt employed on the Royal com- 
mission) are the principals to whom has been entrusted the 
most important effort in English sculpture yet attempted, 
the Memorial in Hyde Park. One artist only who is 
reliable, whose work, though wanting in imagination, is 
thoroughly sound and conscientious, appears, so far as we 
know, on the long list of employes, architectural, orna- 
mental, or sculptural. And then people wonder why 
English monuments fail, and why English sculpture is the 
standing derision of foreigners ! 

It may not be worth a nation's while to have sculpture at 
all ; but, if we are to have it, it is worth doing well. 



THE MULREADY EXHIBITION AT KENSINGTON, 1 864 1 25 



THE MULREADY EXHIBITION AT 
KENSINGTON, 1864 

In every true genius there will generally be one or two 
leading qualities which either sum up the man or express 
what he most aimed at. There is a word, if we could only 
find it, which would define the poet, or painter, or statesman. 
A genuine criticism is that which endeavours to divine this 
word. Criticism, like philosophy, must thus begin with a 
definition ; but, like philosophy, it will recognize at the 
same time that the definition, though essential to a grasp 
of the subject, must be only provisional and tentative — 
that the truth of it must be proved by the facts embraced, 
and will only be felt when they have been looked at in 
orderly sequence. Let us attempt to do this in the case 
of the great artist whose works, alike for our pleasure and 
our instruction, are now collected at South Kensington. 

The ancients said of Phidias that "he combined great- 
ness with accuracy." We think it might be said of Mulready 
that the combination in him was accuracy with refinement. 
There are, indeed, certain limitations to his accuracy in 
regard to form, whether human or landscape. These limi- 
tations, as in the case of most English artists, may be partly 
traced to the imperfect training of a self-developed genius, 
partly to something tentative and fastidious in his own 
nature, which reminds us of what we read of Leonardo da 



126 ESSAYS ON ART 

Vinci. Yet Mulready must be unhesitatingly placed 
amongst the few really eminent and thorough draughtsmen 
of the British School. His power over form was almost as 
complete, though not so wide in range, when he painted 
''The Rattle" in 1808, as when he drew " The Bathers" in 
1849. His refinement is not less marked in the " Gravel 
Pitt" of 1807 than in the "Toy Seller" of 1862. If we 
might, for the sake of definition, call refinement with 
accuracy the artist's method or principle in art, the results 
of it were principally marked by grace combined with 
humour. Of these qualities we will presently speak. Over 
character his grasp is less powerful and certain — failing at 
times (as in certain among his designs for the " Vicar of 
Wakefield," and, more or less, in the " Seven Ages ") ; but, 
especially when it is a class-character that he is drawing — 
as the " Travelling Druggist," the drunken man in the 
" Hustings," or his idle boys everywhere — he ranks with 
the highest of his art. Something of the same uncertainty 
belongs to Mulready's colouring. He seems (if we may 
venture on the suggestion) to have been influenced in this 
more than in any other respect by other artists — by Jan 
Steen and De Hooghe, for instance, during his youth ; 
afterwards by Wilkie. He seems also, at times, over- 
powered by his design, and unable to bring the colour 
into perfect harmony with the composition. The fine 
" Careless Messenger," and " Dog of Two Minds," seem to 
us examples of this in regard to a certain hardness or want 
of blending in the tints, as the earlier " Sailing Match," the 
" Forgotten Word," the " Seven Ages," .do not possess the 
solidity and force of his most complete pictures. It is 
curious that an analogous uncertainty occasionally interferes 
with the subtle skill of his composition ; witness the attitude 
of the lower limbs in the left-hand sitting figure of his 



THE MULREADY EXHIBITION AT KENSINGTON, 1 864 1 27 

" Bathers," and the tallest girl on the right in his " Last in 
School." Here, again, we are reminded of Leonardo. 

What we have indicated as Mulready's most eminent gifts 
require a few more words before we endeavour to charac- 
terise the gradual development of his art, 

— votiva . . . veluti descripta tabella — 

on the walls of the Museum. In the peculiar turn which 
his humour displays, we would class Mulready with his 
admirable contemporary, Leslie. Without w^eighing these 
great artists against each other, it may perhaps be observed 
that, whilst in both the speciality of their humour lies in its 
close union with grace, in Mulready the grace is based in 
many instances on beauty of line and finish of drawing, 
w^hilst in Leslie's humour the beauty and elegance lie more 
distinctly in the thought or situation selected for the picture. 
One reason for this may be that Leslie in general derived 
his inspiration from books, whilst Mulready's designs are as 
frequently inventions of his own from the suggestions of 
real life. There is something of Jan Steen in the one, as 
of Stothard in the other. It is probable that Mulready, 
as the " Boy's Canon " indicates, was not uninfluenced by 
Wilkie, whose name is naturally suggested when modem 
humourists in art are spoken of • Much as Mulready was 
superior in technical skill and thoroughness as an artist, 
there is considerable resemblance between the style of the 
two in a few subjects ; but Wilkie's main early aim was 
to set forth a dramatic exhibition of national, and especially 
of Scotch, humour — Mulready's, to render individual points 
of humour, especially as shown by children. Sir David 
paints the Pensioners receiving the news of the Battle of 
Waterloo ; Mulready chooses the convalescent soldier 
v/atching the goodhumoured strife in which his two boys 



128 ESSAYS ON ART 

are enacting the (unhappily) endless game of Englishman 
and Frenchman. If less dramatic and representative as a 
humourist, Mulready is more gracious and poetical ; less sly 
and grin-provoking, but more imaginative, and more tender 
in his appeal — more universal, we might say, if less 
" national." Irish as he was by birth, it is indeed curious 
how little of the broad Hibernian element appears in Mul- 
ready. Compare his beautiful " Hustings " with Hogarth's 
electioneering pictures. But this opens another chapter, 
and we have already perhaps said enough on the special 
point before us. 

If Mulready's earliest aim in his figure-subjects was 
humour, in his later it was grace. In its essential purity 
no English painter can, we think, be set above him. 
Great as are the claims of Reynolds, Gainsborough, 
Stothard, and Leslie, none of them equalled Mulready 
in that refined accuracy which has been noticed as his 
primary characteristic. In mastery over design, no artist, 
we imagine, would hesitate to rank him as the highest ; and 
he was thus able to give a fuller expression to his sense 
of the beautiful- It is true that Mulready wants a certain 
spontaneity and air of ease which eminently mark Gains- 
borough and Reynolds. His works are sometimes laboured, 
always profoundly studied ; each one appears to be an ex- 
periment in advance ; they evade no difficulties, and are 
hence liable to occasional fallings-short from the artist's 
idea of perfection. The '' Last In," and the " Seven Ages," 
with one or two of the latest pictures, appear to us, in dif- 
ferent ways, examples of ability which has not attained its 
mark. Something has jarred ; although even here there is 
much in harmony. But the artist's earnest aim at refined 
accuracy never fails. From first to last, throughout the 
gallery, it may be doubted whether there is a line without 



THE MULREADY EXHIBITION AT KENSINGTON, 1864 1 29 

its purpose. Every little group is like an Athenian bas- 
relief reproduced in colour. Mulready's dogs, as Mr. 
Ruskin said, might have been types for Hellenic coinage. 
His compositions dwell on the mind, amidst a thousand 
which we have admired, and dimly remember, like some 
of the airs of Mozart or Beethoven compared with other 
men's sonatas. To use an old scholastic phrase, they 
are " essential forms " of grace. Perhaps this may be 
one reason why, in the widest sense, Mulready has never 
been a popular artist. We do not expect that this exhibition, 
complete as it is, will make him such. For this fine point 
of grace is so very rarely shown in English art, is in itself a 
matter calling for so much attention from the spectator, that 
it is not likely to meet with common appreciation. The fit 
audience for such an artist will be inevitably few, at any 
rate in the modern world. An Athenian tribunal is required 
for men like Mulready, Flaxman, and Ingres. 

Yet even if our estimate on the point of common popu- 
larity be correct, Mulready is not likely to fail in preserving 
that place in the foremost ranks of English Art which he 
has long held. Though the highest men in painting, as in 
poetry, will rarely be widely popular, yet, as Mr. Ruskin has 
remarked in one of his most striking criticisms, there is a 
kind of halo round their works, a dim sense of greatness 
about their names, which affects and awes the least im- 
pressible or least cultivated spectators. And the class of 
subject which became gradually the favourite with Mulready, 
(to define lastly, not only how he was gifted, but what gift 
he has left us) is not only original in itself, but is one which 
touches nearly our national sympathies. We have ventured 
to reckon grace as dominant over sense of character and 
power of humour in his mind. Hence we look for the 
speciality of his style in what, taking a phrase now common, 

K 



130 ESSAYS ON ART 

we might call the English Idyl. In refined common nature, 
and humour united with tenderness, Mulready's later works 
stand alone : although, as our contemporaries in France 
may prove to us, so wide is the field here open that it 
may be hoped he may find many fit successors. The 
three pictures fi-om the Vicar of Wakefield, with the <* First 
Love," and the " Child and Lascars," may be noticed as 
amongst the most perfect of these idyllic compositions, 
alike in idea, in drawing, and in colour. 

We would now briefly attempt to mark out the develop- 
ment of Mulready's genius in the series exhibited. Skilfully 
as it has been selected by Mr. Sketchley and arranged by 
Messrs. Redgrave, the space disposable has not allowed 
them to preserve a complete historical sequence on the 
walls, although, beginning on the left as the spectator faces 
the entrance door, the pictures answer sufficiently to their 
order of execution — the only rational and pleasing ordon- 
nance, by the way, in any national gallery. The preparatory 
stage in the artist's career may be said roughly to extend 
towards 181 1. Born in Ireland (1786), he studied at first 
under Banks the sculptor. None of the figure-subjects 
which he then painted are here. Mulready's next aim 
was landscape. In the examples shown, refinement, skilful 
arrangement, and force combined with tenderness of colour, 
appear almost from the outset. The two views in Ken- 
sington are well known. *' Heston " and the "Cottage" 
exemplify the painter's command over delicacy and atmo- 
sphere. But we are disposed to rank the "Gravel Pit" 
highest, from its union of simplicity with grandeur, and 
its exquisite refinement and subdued power in colouring. 
The skill in composition which has been here exercised, 
whilst it is entirely concealed, puts this little work amongst 
Mulready's finest performances. In figure-subjects, he was 



THE MULREADY EXHIBITION AT KENSINGTON, 1 864 13I 

now obviously influenced by the great Dutch painter, Jan 
Steen. Perhaps it is to this that we owe, in the '' Barber," 
almost the solitary example of a coarse ugliness in the 
whole series exhibited. Mulready, on the whole, in the 
figure-subjects of this period, has not found his way to his 
peculiar grasp of humour, nor to his later command over 
tone and quality in colour. 

"Punch," painted in 1812, is the first important work in 
which the artist characterized himself. It is full of incident 
and points of character, but the colouring is slight, and the 
figures want that unconscious air which greater practice 
alone could give. During the ten following years, Mul- 
ready, whose diligence in study was almost proverbial, 
formed his style. The " Idle Boys," " Last In," " Fight 
Interrupted,'' "Wolf and Lamb," " Careless Messenger," 
mark the stages of this advance. The ways of boyhood 
have certainly received no other such powerful and 
amusing illustration. Visitors will notice how the colour 
becomes at once more firm and more subtle, the drawing 
more complete, the natural air more happily attained. We 
have one interior, in 1821, "Lady Dartmouth," worthy of 
De Hooghe in the exquisite lighting of a room ; but, in the 
main, the artist's aim is to render open daylight. This, 
indeed, is the principal excellence Of his "Waterloo Con- 
valescent," a scattered figure-composition, redeemed into 
unity by its magnificent sweep of landscape (182 2)* Hence- 
forth the humour of Mulready is increasingly tinged by 
tenderness and grace. Compare the "TravelHng Druggist" 
(1825) with its neighbour,, the "Fight." With this increased 
poetry of aim came the wish for greater glow and fusion of 
colour — a wish to which, as already noticed, the result did 
not always happily respond. Yet at last he reached a won- 
derful power in expressing even the glow of sunlight — a 

K 2 



132 ESSAYS ON ART 

quality, it need hardly be remarked, amongst the rarest in 
painting. Mulready, it should be remembered, like Turner, 
was always a tentative artist, a student through life, not 
content to stay his hand at a point of skill already reached, 
but pressing on to further excellence. Hence occasional 
half-failures ; but no quality more decisively marks off the 
great and real artist from lesser men than this constant 
struggle onwards. The little "Father and Child" (1830), 
is perhaps the sweetest among the pictures of this period ; 
the " Dog of Two Minds " (although, to our thinking, the 
dog has clearly but one, that of saving his hide) the most 
important. 

Between 1839 and 1849 fall the artist's most consummate 
works. To this period belong the "First Love," perhaps 
the most purely and tenderly poetical of English pictures 
from common life, for the canvas of the " Sonnet," beautiful 
as it is, does not realize all the exquisiteness of the design ; 
the "Whistonian Controversy," by common consent the 
most gorgeous piece of colour united with perfect drawing, 
produced by our modern school ; and the " Bathers," which 
in refined accuracy of form is almost the only — perhaps 
the one only — English picture which we can fairly match 
with Ingres. The Lascar-group, with the landscape behind, 
has been singled out by artists as probably Mulready's high- 
est achievement in his art ; but a mannered air, from which 
the girls with the child are not quite free, and the over- 
refined limbs of the child himself, prevent us from ranking 
the work exactly with the three just noticed. The two other 
Goldsmith scenes, the " Butt " and the " Ford," belong to 
the same elevated series. We have already tried to indicate 
the aim and quality of these works. Tennyson's English 

■ Idyls are not more finished, glowing, and poetical. 

^ One great picture, the repetition in life-size of the "Toy 



THE MULREADY EXHIBITION AT KENSINGTON, 1 864 I33 

Seller/' designed in 1835, belongs to the last years of this 
noble Student, as we would, in his own phrase, emphatically 
name him. It is the only life-size work, portraits excepted, 
here exhibited. Mulready, it is well known, sent it, not 
quite complete in some details, nor coloured up to the 
intended pitch, to the Academy Exhibition of 1862. Yet, 
in the beauty and originality of its subject, and the won- 
derful handling of its leading and important features, it is 
one of the most interesting of his works. It is worthy of 
notice how Mulready has here indicated at once the fear^ of 
the negro's black face, and the youthful spirit which resists 
that fear, in the expression of the child's eyes and mouth. 
It is remarkable that in one of the small sketches the child's 
mouth is distorted with alarm. This pleases lovers of the 
obvious. But Mulready worked to please those who love 
refined accuracy and subtle grace. There is hardly one of 
his works which does not afford similar instructive lessons. 
This picture might, we believe, have been purchased at the 
time for a very moderate sum. Like Turner's *' Temeraire," 
which was priced at 400/., it left the Academy still in the 
artist's possession. 

This was a curious example of that deficiency in inde- 
pendent taste which is, it may be feared, in some ways 
characteristic of Englishmen. In picture -buying, at any 
rate, precedent and fashion are too often dominant. 
Because Mulready was famous for cabinet-pieces, no one 
of the many who must have appreciated his art, and have 
also seen this picture, was found, — with courage to take 
it home. England, in fact, was probably not the country 
where he could be best appreciated. Even at the Parisian 
Exhibition of 1855, when the French jury were ready to 
give Mulready the great medal of honour, English influence, 
it is stated, transferred it elsewhere. Neither the very dis- 



134 ESSAYS ON ART 

tinguished artist who received the Great Medal, nor Mul- 
ready, were, it is true, likely to caje much, or perhaps at 
all, for a kind of distinction to which English artists, to their 
honour, are in general profoundly indifferent. The fame of 
the painters of the " Sanctuary," and the '^ Man proposes, 
God disposes," — of the "Wedding Gown," and the "Lascar 
Beggars," is beyond augmentation by the best of juries. Yet 
the story is worth recording. Whether it be fact or legend, 
the moral is the same ; the full appreciation of Mulready's 
genius remains for the next generation. 



WILLIAM DYCE AND WILLIAM HUNT 

(Feb. 1864) 

The present year has been sadly fatal to English art in its 
principal branches. Whilst we were discovering or lament- 
ing how much w^e had lost in Thackeray, the best of our 
older sculptors was taken from us in Mr. Behnes. Within 
another fortnight the deaths of " old William Hunt," as he 
was affectionately called, and of Mr. Dyce, the Academi- 
cian, have made serious gaps in our schools of water-colour 
and of historical painting. We notice them here, reserving 
Behnes for a separate paper. 



William Dyce, the son of a respectable physician, was 
born at Aberdeen in 1806, and went through a complete 
academical course in the Marischal College, receiving the 
degree of M.A. before he began his education in art within 
the schools of the Royal Scottish Academy. These cir- 
cumstances shed light over Dyce's subsequent career. He 
was pre-eminently an educated artist ; and although at first 
he wisely set his hand at portraiture, the basis of all sound 
historical art in all ages, yet it is probable that his father's 
position gave the son a certain independence, which before 
long enabled him to show the bent of his nature in his 
work. After two visits of considerable length to Italy, 



13^ ESSAYS ON ART 

where he studied with diligence, Dyce, returning to Scot- 
land, adopted at once a choice of subjects and of style by 
which no EngUsh artist has ever succeeded in making his 
livelihood. A " Madonna arid Child " and a " Bacchus 
Nursed by the Nymphs " were significant proofs that the 
young painter had already devoted himself to the scholastic 
or severe side of his art ; and fortune, more favourable to 
him than to John Cross or David Scott, his great contem- 
poraries, allowed him to carry out the aim of his youth on 
a scale proportionate to its importance. 

Dyce appeared in the Academy Exhibition, then just 
moved to Trafalgar Square, in 1836 ; and henceforward, 
we believe, his life was mainly spent in England. Indeed, 
whilst a literary aim, probably impressed on him at Mari- 
schal College, is throughout evident in his work as an artist, 
his style retained no impress of the modes of art in fashion 
within his native country. It is rather to the eminent historical 
painters of modern France, or perhaps to the learned school 
of Germany, that we must look for those contemporaries 
who influenced him. Soon after he had taken his place 
in English art, it will be remembered that, owing to many 
causes, amongst which the development of a living and 
picturesque style in architecture was perhaps the most im- 
portant, the pictorial decoration of our public buildings, 
especially by fresco-painting, became an object, if not of 
popular, at least of intelligent interest in England. This 
movement found an earnest and cultivated advocate in Mr. 
Dyce. Already, in 1837, he had written one of those skil- 
ful and sensible pamphlets, treating art as a matter of intel- 
lect and education, of which we were to receive several 
from his pen ; and, by a felicity of choice which does not 
always attend the Government when it takes a share in such 
matters, he was appointed to the superintendence of the 



WILLIAM DYCE AND WILLIAM HUNT I37 

newly-established Schools of Design, and in that capacity 
he prepared an elaborate report on the foreign systems of 
aesthetic education. This, we believe, was not without its 
influence in promoting a movement which, amongst many 
reverses and shortcomings, has continued always to engage 
the deep sympathy of all who wish well to English art. 

Dyce, if a born painter, was long in finding his way. 
His career is a remarkable illustration of Reynolds' maxim, 
that success in art may be largely due to persevering industry. 
In his practice it is not so much the spontaneity of genius 
which he exhibited, as the soundness derived from good 
traditions and established academical rules. Especially in 
drawing, always the weak side of English artists, he held a 
distinguished place. As typical specimens of the painter, 
three oil pictures, amongst thos^ shown in the Academy, 
may be quoted — a " Madonna and Child " (1846), " Jacob 
and Rachel" (1853), ** Joash Shooting the Arrow of Deli- 
verance " (1844). These are thoroughly and firmly drawn, 
and soberly coloured, whilst the last-named rises to great 
force in expression and in archaeological truth. There is 
also a peculiar tenderness about his style, severe as it is ; a 
kind of reserved grace, — a modesty which wins its place 
in the beholder's mind, and retains it. One or two groups 
of the " Virgin and Child," left unfinished at his death, were 
models of an elevated beauty. Later on in life Mr. Dyce 
threw himself more into the school of minute realiza- 
tion. To this manner belong a few striking religious com- 
positions, with the highly-finished scenes from the lives 
of Titian and of George Herbert which provoked much 
contemporary criticism (1857 and 1861). Whatever judg- 
ment we may be disposed to pronounce on the general 
merits of the style to which Dyce thus gave in his adhesion, 
it will be confessed that the pictures thus executed did not 



138 ESSAYS ON ART 

reach the force or completeness of effect exhibited by his 
earlier works. 

It is, however, as an " historical " painter in fresco that 
Mr. Dyce is likely to be best remembered. Here his works 
had the merit of leading the way in a style which the French 
artists have brought to noble results in the churches of Paris. 
To judge from the drawings, the great series of chivalrous 
subjects which his death left incomplete within the walls 
of the Palace of Westminster, will be found, when opened 
to public view, to raise the artist's reputation. The large 
work of this class by which he can best be judged is the 
cycle of subjects from the Life of Christ which fills the end 
of All Saints Church, in Margaret Street. Here the artist 
had to labour in an honourable, but a most difficult field, 
contending as he did, by pictures which from their position 
must be regarded as the leading or central decoration, 
against architectural designs carried to a very high point 
of elaboration and of beauty. Putting Mr. Armitage's 
frescoes for a Roman Catholic church out of the argument, 
Mr. Dyce still holds the highest place amongst those who 
have attempted to add the charm of sacred art to our own 
churches. The sobriety of this work reahzes the ideal of 
ecclesiastical art much more truly than the flimsiness and 
the stiffness of some more recent attempts in London. The 
All Saints designs, although, from the stonework in which 
they are framed, restricted in composition, have a grave and 
thoughtful quality both in drawing and in colouring, with 
a subdued and refined grace of line, which are eminently 
suitable to religious paintings. Mr. Dyce was admitted 
Associate of the Academy in 1845 — a full Academician in 
1848. 

In estimating Dyce's place as an artist, we must not pass 
over his other rare accomplishments — rare in painters as 



WILLIAM DYCE AND WILLIAM HUNT T39 

a class, and perhaps unprecedented in an English painter. 
He was a profound and learned musician, and not only in 
the history but in the practice of vocal music he displayed 
much learning and industry. To him, perhaps, and to his 
early efforts in calling attention to choral music and to the 
compositions of the great English and Continental musi- 
cians, especially to the school of Palestrina, the Church of 
England is mainly indebted for its improvements in choir 
and anthem singing. Dyce's sumptuous edition of the 
Prayer Book with Marbecke's notation was the starting- 
point of the revival. Ecclesiastical and theological sub- 
jects were a favourite study with him; and the school of 
divinity which he cultivated corresponded to the scholastic 
and academical character of his art. He is perhaps the 
only painter of modern times who was famihar with the 
whole range of patristic as well as classical literature. He 
was in the habit of contributing occasionally learned articles 
to the theological periodicals of the Church ; and when we 
add that his earliest success at College was a Prize Essay 
on Electricity, we are allowed to connect the memories of 
Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael with that of the artist who 
loved their -work so well, and trod in their steps so dili- 
gently. 

II 
Great as William Hunt undoubtedly was— in his way, in- 
deed, unique even more than all genius is wont to be — his life 
and works do not call for detailed criticism. Like Turner, 
though fifteen years later. Hunt was born in London (1790), 
and, like Turner, he also was destined to illustrate by his art 
that pure and unalloyed Nature of which almost every trace 
is shut out from the five-and-twenty square miles covered 
by the " great city." Hunt's bent towards painting showed 
itself betimes. The period of his early yoiith coincides 



I40 ESSAYS ON ART 

with what may be roughly defined as the second stage of 
our water-colour school. Some thirty years before, the art 
had begun in the brown and gray-washed drawings of 
Turner and his earliest contemporaries, Girtin, J. Chalon, 
and Cozens, who opposed their simple style, magnificent in 
its broad effects and delicate appreciation of the truths of 
space, to the conventional colourists of the day. But, 
having laid this secure foundation for success, already these 
men, with Havell, Cotman, and others, were attempting 
further advances. Colour was more fully employed ; and 
whilst we recognize that in this stage of water-colours, al- 
ready antiquated to us, the effect is often slight and tinted, 
yet with this were united a sweetness and transparency 
which are not only the characteristics of all good art, but in 
a more special manner are the characteristics of good 
water-colour painting. 

Varley was one of the most conspicuous of that early 
group. Under his charge Hunt was placed for a full seven 
years' apprenticeship. Until a strict chronological series 
of his works shall be collected and shown, it will be impos- 
sible to fix with accuracy the stages of Hunt's practice, or 
to settle the time when he introduced into the art those 
novel elements with which his name is connected. It is, 
however, clear that, after some years' experience in land- 
scape-painting (frequently in oil), the bent of his genius dis- 
played itself firmly in the two main directions which he was 
so long to follow — figure-subjects from rustic nature, and 
pictures of what is absurdly called " still life." His final 
decision in favour of water-colours as his medium may, 
perhaps, be dated from about 1820, when he began that 
endless series of contributions to the original Water-Colour 
Society which has formed no small item in the attractive- 
ness of their exhibitions. He was elected a member in 



WILLIAM DYCE AND WILLIAM HUNT I4I 

1827. The exclusive rules or practice of the Royal Academy 
practically denied this great artist admittance to their body; 
nor, distinguished as he was by modesty and simplicity of 
nature, is it likely that he resented the exclusion. At any 
rate, to the Society just named he continued faithful, and 
his last works appeared at their recent winter exhibition of 
sketches. 

Hunt's style was marked by the simplicity and modesty 
which we have mentioned as characterizing his disposition. 
From first to last it was the same quiet, incessant, humble- 
hearted obedience to the nature which he wished to repro- 
duce and to fix in art. Readers will remember the charming 
anecdote which Mr. Ruskin tells of him — how, when asked 
why he laid on this or that tint in one of his exquisite 
water-colour paintings, he said, ** I am trying at it." This 
earnest " trying " led him to those enlargements of the 
technical methods of his art which we have referred to. 
Flowers and leaves, fruit and moss, the plumage and scale 
of bird and fish, the flush on the cheek of youth or the 
gleaming hair of childhood — all these, with indeed whatever 
else fell within the range of his pencil, required richer tints, 
more varied transparency, more solid modelling, than the 
limited range of colours then in use could supply. Without 
entering on technical details, it will be enough to say that 
the skill and industry of Hunt succeeded in supplying these 
deficiences. Passing from the materials of his work to the 
artist's power in applying them. Hunt may be said to have 
united in a very rare degree the two great elements of 
painting. His absolute command of drawing (within a 
certain range of subject) enabled him to lay on colour with 
certainty of effect. His natural instinct for colour enabled 
him to give the fullest expression to the subtleties of the 
natural form which he had so completely mastered. A 



142 ESSAYS ON ART 

peculiar refinement of feeling and sense of the poetical in 
nature led him, lastly, to give his subjects, whether in their 
idea or in their execution, a grace, we might almost say an 
elevation, in which he stands almost alone. There are and 
have been many skilful painters of fruits and flowers ; but 
whom shall we place before Hunt in the loftiness and 
exquisiteness of quality which he gave his groups 1 Others, 
again, may have seized fine curves and delicate surfaces 
with similar skill in draughtsmanship ; but few indeed have 
been those whose skill has been employed with such subtle 
discrimination. Everything in one of these groups looks 
like accident itself. Yet, try to do the like, and the artist 
will quickly find that the composition is as studied and as 
perfect as the composition in Raphael's " School of Athens." 
It is the same with the colour. Hunt's pictures, which at 
first sight seem formed of the elementary tints in their sim- 
plest purity, will be found on examination everywhere gra- 
dated with indescribable delicacy, and everywhere, when we 
take an inch and look at it separately, filled with passages of 
colour which we cannot bring within any named in the 
catalogue. Yet the total effect of these curiously broken 
and "stippled" tints is a soft and translucent brilliancy 
which seems beyond the range of art and her imperfect 
materials. And it should be specially noted, that whilst the 
force and relief of Hunt's work are beyond that of any 
other work in his province, yet he never carries it to the 
point of deception. His grapes and plums are marvels of 
golden and purple plumpness ; they have the fullest salience 
which is consistent with the rest of the composition ; yet 
they do not tempt us to think that we can take them from 
their places. 

Within this narrow circle Hunt moved supreme through 
an almost innumerable series of small masterpieces. It is 



WILLIAM DYCE AND WILLIAM HUNT 1 43 

certainly to them that we look for the true and complete 
manifestation of his genius. But, besides his early studies 
in oil, he occasionally painted indoor scenes with much 
largeness and picturesque effect ; and he carried his fine 
eye for simple nature into the designs from rustic life which 
have given the English public so much innocent pleasure. 
We do not indeed think that he can be classed with our 
great figure-painters. For this he seems to us to want 
range, force, and completeness in drawing. He occasionally 
deviates into rather overstrained characterization. Yet, in 
this sphere. Hunt's healthy nature, sense of humour, and 
profound feeling for simple life have given his works a very 
marked and individual place. Both in these respects and 
in their execution — large, subtle, and simple at once — they 
may be a useful (though hitherto a little regarded) warning 
against the errors to which water-colour art, when applied to 
the human figure, is apt to fall. But the painter speaks 
still in the masterworks which he has left us. If we 
might attempt to characterize his genius in one phrase, 
we would say that William Hunt has been unsurpassed 
amongst our artists in one of the noblest functions of 
art — that of exalting lowliness, and giving greatness to 
Httle things. 



HIPPOLYTE FLANDRIN 



Accustomed as we now are to hearing and saying that 
Paris is perfectly familiar to Englishmen, it is curious how 
little appears to be known in England of the great decora- 
tive works which, during the last twenty years especially, 
have been carried out in the churches of Paris. Eight or 
ten years ago, a writer in the Revue des Deux Mondes (we 
think it was M. H. Delaborde, editor of the Letti^es et 
Pensees d'^Hippolyte Flandri?t ; Paris : Henri Plon ; 1865.) 
gave a full and animated account of some of the most 
important of these works, the impulse to which, arising 
from the intellectual activity called into life through or 
imder the Orleanist Government, has not been checked 
or at any rate stifled, by the subsequent political revolu- 
tions. Indeed, a scheme was adopted under the brief 
Republican regime for the decoration of the Pantheon 
by a series of pictures representing the whole moral, intel- 
lectual, and religious progress of mankind, which, in com- 
pleteness of idea, might have satisfied Goethe himself. We 
do not know how far the ability of the artist who made out 
the programme (which will be found at length in one of M. 
T. Gauthier's volumes), M. Chenavard, would have been 
pictorially equal to so vast a labour ; but the reconversion 
of the building to ecclesiastical purposes put a stop, tem- 



HIPPOLYTE FLANDRIN 1 45 

porarlly at least, to; this comprehensive project. The Pan- 
theon is, in fact, the most suitable building of the kind in 
Paris for mural painting ; and one reason why the very 
remarkable series undertaken in the other churches has 
received less attention than it ought to have done, may 
probably be found in the defective light and awkward 
architectural arrangements to which the artists have often 
had to accommodate themselves. The subject may, however, 
be warmly commended to the notice of visitors interested 
in art and in church ornament, and we are sure that no 
readers to whom the suggestion may be a novelty will 
accuse us of having led them to waste their time in Paris. 
Nor is the lesson of the successes, or of the comparative 
failures, which have been produced by the combined action 
of the Imperial and of the local administration without 
much value for our own guidance. It is absurd to think 
that we can afford to neglect any well-considered and long- 
continued efforts of that nation which, with our own, exhibits 
the strongest and keenest intellectual life at present stirring 
in the human race. France and England now lead the 
world. In a certain intelligible sense {en attendant the 
United States), they are the world. Perhaps most English- 
men would assent to this remark. But, so far as France is 
concerned, almost all Englishmen practically ignore it. 

To quit, however, these general reflections. Among the 
artists who have satisfactorily achieved the decorative tasks 
entrusted to them, M. H. Flandrin stands in the first 
rank. It is so difficult to put into words the distinctive 
qualities of any genuine painter, especially when his works 
are not familiar to the world, that we can only deal with 
this portion of our notice in a tentative way. To those, 
however, who have seen Flandrin's long procession above 
the columns in the basilica of S. Vincent de Paul, the large 

L 



14^ ESSAYS ON ART 

biblical subjects in S. Germain des Pres (both at Paris), or- 
the smaller but almost more perfect groups within the old 
Ainay church of Lyons, we think it will appear true if we 
define his style, in M. Delaborde's words, as " the effort to 
give Greek art Christian baptism," or as " the expression of 
refined feeling (sensbilite) under forms of singular purity." 
Or we might say that he did what M. Ary Scheffer wished 
to do, but with a mastery over technical resources, and a 
clearness and simplicity of idea, in which his contemporary 
was wanting ; or we might compare his work to what our 
own Flaxman produced (too little) in the domain of Chris- 
tian art. These images, rather than direct criticisms, which 
one might multiply with ease, may serve also to suggest, 
with due diffidence, what appears the weaker side of Flan- 
drin's genius — at least to English Protestantism. With 
great delicacy of feeling and truthfulness of intention, 
seconded by a power of drawing such as might be expected 
from the favourite pupil of the great Ingres, Flandrin made 
a singularly attractive and interesting compromise between 
the religious art of Italy in the fifteenth and sixteenth cen- 
turies and the secular or quasi-classical art of France during 
our own age. This compromise extends to the idea of his 
pictures not less than to their execution. In a certain 
degree, probably, due to a native want of dramatic force 
and energy in the artist, we trace it mainly to a wider cause, 
which is worthy of much deeper examination than can here 
be given. Under the operation of that all-pervading and 
inevitable spirit which Mr. Lecky terms the spirit of " Ra- 
tionalism," even Hippolyte Flandrin, though so devout a 
Catholic as to delight in the bayonets on which the Papal 
throne is still content to find an uneasy foundation, has 
gracefully toned down or eliminated from his sacred sub- 
jects the 7iaif supernaturalism, with the not less naif fanati- 



HIPPOLYTE FLANDRIN 1 47 

cism, which marks the proto-Catholic art. We have pointed 
out, elsewhere, how curiously Mr. Herbert's large fresco of 
'* Moses bringing down the Tables of the Law " is devoid 
of the' miraculous or supernatural impress. What in that 
work is probably due to want of vital power and imagina- 
tion in the artist, was due, in the case of Flandrin, to that 
spirit of the age from which no one can escape by any 
process short of mental suicide. 

The circle of those in England who are sufficiently cul- 
tivated to care for foreign art (unless it comes before them 
with such a directly EngHsh appeal as Madlle. R. Bonheur's) 
is so small that we cannot recommend M. Delaborde's Life^ 
Letters^ a7id Thoughts of Flandrin for translation, although 
the book deserves it not less than Mendelssohn! s Letters^ 
But those who read French, and care for biography, will 
find the book well worth attention. Flandrin's letters, 
which form nearly four-fifths of the volume, may be com-^ 
pared with those of Madlle. de Guerin, not only in respect 
of the comparatively uneventful story of his life, but of that 
long and devout struggle to work always onward and up- 
ward through difficulties, internal and external, which they 
set vividly before us. These two admirable examples of 
the religious mind of modern France might be compared 
also in the warmth and purity of their affections, in that 
intense love for home and all that goes with it which we 
vulgarly take for a sort of English entail, and in the grace- 
ful sketches of scenery or sentiment interspersed among the 
details of " human nature's daily food '' : — 

I must tell you [Flandrin writes to his aged mother in February, 1846, 
four months after the birth of a first boy] that to-day it was almost hot 
We had opened the windows. Aimee was holding the little darling in 
her arms, and through the window, across the courtyard, he had an 
interview with a young person one year old, who kept sending him 
kisses. I do not know whether his modesty w£ts offended by these 

L2 



148 ESSAYS ON ART 

coquettish advances, but he made her a very chilling return, and his 
mother had to put him up even to that ! One must allow, however, 
that he is very young, and has still many things to learn, — together with 
politeness. 

No man could deserve more thoroughly than Flandrin 
the kind of happiness painted in this charming sketch, but 
it was not gained till after a series of years in which the 
labour and privation through which elevation in art too 
often has to be reached held an unusually severe portion. 
The poverty and discouragement of flandrin's youth, and 
the noble spirit of simple magnanimity with which he con- 
fronted these obstacles, form a picture very similar to that 
which Mr. Gilchrist's vivid biography draws of our own 
William Blake, and will be, no doubt, the consolation of 
many among the " poor, and sick in body, and beloved by 
the gods." Certainly no, true artist is ever found standing 
on what is called ** his dignity," or declining the smallest 
work w^hich really belongs to art ; yet it is curious that the 
severest religious painter whom France has produced since 
Eustache Le Sueur should have begun life by drawing 
bonbons for confectioners, and should have imagined that 
his future career lay in painting the gallant privates of the 
French army, who are not commonly supposed to have 
much of the severe or the Scriptural about them. After 
some years' training in the Lyons School of Design, Flandrin 
moved to Paris. What looks almost like an accident sent 
him to work in the study of M. Ingres. This was the 
turning-point of his life, and to the end of it Flandrin 
always treated his great master with the reverence and 
affection of a son rather than of a scholar. M. Delaborde 
traces, in his graceful biographical sketch (which, if he will 
permit us the phrase, appears only to want greater firmness 
or clearness of outline), the differences which divide the 



HIPPOLYTE FLANDRIN 1 49 

Styles of these two eminent artists. But we think him quite 
correct in arguing, in opposition to opinions which have 
lately gained ground at Paris, that the great principles of 
art were alike in Ingres and Flandrin, and that the pupil 
legitimately and strictly carried out, within the Christian 
sphere, what the master taught and practised in regard to 
more secular or more classical subjects. 

The brightest portion of Flandrin's life seems to have 
been the years which, before his health began to fail, he 
spent as " pensionnaire " of France in that famous Academy 
which her liberal and enlightened spirit maintains at Rome. 
The letters written thence are, at any rate, the most hopeful 
and interesting of the series. The city exercised over him 
that attraction which it has long held over minds rather of 
the meditative and receptive than of the energetic class. 
Rome suited Flandrin where he was strong, and (as we have 
above tried to indicate) where he was not so strong. In 
regard to his art, perhaps it gave him too marked a bias 
towards " eclecticism/' as he attempted to unite admiration 
for the religious style of Giotto or Angelico on one hand; 
and Domenichino on the other {res olim dissociabiles, as 
Tacitus, in his humourous way, said of liberty and impe- 
rialism), under one theory. Flandrin's reputation preceded 
him on his return to France, and henceforth his career was 
assured. To quote the neat phrase which his countrymen 
employ, he was, now " un homme arrived 

We have already indicated the direction which his talent 
took, and the principal works to which he devoted years, 
too few indeed for art, but more than enough for glory. 
Like his high-spirited countrymen in general, Flandrin, 
modest and religious as he was, had no indifference towards 
fame, to value which should be reproach only when glory is 
sought in things not of high or enduring -quality. But his 



15^ ESSAYS ON ART 

years of activity were also sufficient to secure for him what 
he valued much more — pure happiness at home, and the 
reputation of an artist second to none for devoted conscien- 
tiousness and thoroughness in all he set his hand to do. 
We should have liked to pursue this side of his character 
further, and to point out, in particular, its bearing on the 
singular success which he reached in simple portraiture. 
But for elucidations on this and on many cognate details we 
must refer our readers to M. Delaborde's interesting volume. 
Whether we look to its tone, its clearness and elegance of 
style, or its completeness, it affords a lesson how the bio- 
graphy of a great painter should be written, which might, as 
recent examples prove, be studied with advantage both in 
Germany and in England. 



MR. HERBERTS '' DELIVERY OF THE 
LAW" 

(July, 1864) 

The " praise of friends," which some Oriental proverb, 
with an unkind veracity, ranks as more pernicious than the 
censure of enemies, has been lavished so indiscriminately 
on Mr. Herbert's new fresco that it cannot have been with- 
out an unfortunate influence on many who see the work. 
It is, no doubt, a considerable performance, and is, we may 
at once say, before analyzing it, better than anything hither- 
to produced by the artist ; but it is hardly possible that those 
who read some of the eulogies on this work, should not have 
felt a certain disappointment when they found themselves 
before a picture which " meets the charge of plagiarism from 
the French " (brought by we know not whom) " by its lofty 
and reverent spirit, and by the predominance of its men 
and women over the clothes they wear," being, in fact — 
as we are told — " not only unequalled by anything of 
the same kind ever executed in this country, but rivalling 
the greatest works of the same order in any part of the 
world'"* This wide-sounding phrase designates, we pre- 
sume, the Italian cities, with those half-dozen in France 
or Germany in which frescoes by Raphael and Michel 
Angelo, Giotto and Ghirlandajo, Ingres, Delaroche, and one 
or two others exist. We are sure that any artist in his senses 
would prefer visitors fresh from the most censorious critic of 



152 ESSAYS ON ART 

the day to those who, on the faith of such easy laudation, 
expect to find a fresco equal to the " Stanze " of the 
Vatican or the ceiling of the Sistine, superior in loftiness 
and character-drawing to the " Hemicycle " of the Ecole 
des Arts, or the "Apotheosis of Napoleon." Fessimum 
inimicoriim genus^ laudantes. 

It may be presumed that the testimonies of members, 
freely given in the House of Commons, as well as that of 
the laudator ^-w^X. quoted, who even "feels justified in pro- 
nouncing this the highest achievement in the noblest walk 
of art that any English painter has yet given to the world," 
were partly drawn forth by the amiable wish to convince 
the keepers of the national purse that the labourer was 
worthy of a more liberal hire than that originally assigned 
to him. In this wish we most heartily concur; as we 
think that industry and conscientious care should have 
the reward which in modern art goes too often to showy 
slovenliness. But, whilst well satisfied that attention should 
have been drawn to the insufficient sums allotted, before 
the conditions of the experiment were or could be fully 
known, to Mr. Herbert's task, let us also speak a word 
on behalf of the indubitably great artist who has said not 
one syllable for himself, but has equally toiled for years 
at those noble frescoes of Waterloo and Trafalgar, which do 
not need the illiberal depreciation of any other pictures as 
a reason why Mr. Maclise also should benefit by the better- 
proportioned scale of remuneration. It is right that art 
should be paid by a nation at a little above its exact market 
value. So much we gladly yield to justice ; yet we may be 
excused if we reserve not less interest for the painter who, 
whilst sacrificing largely in point of income, gives his best 
work — as Delaroche gave his famous fresco of the " Hemi- 
cycle" — in the spirit of simple devotion to his art, let 



MR. Herbert's "delivery of the law" 153 

material reward come or not as it will. But this is no sort 
of excuse for national stinginess ; — 

Mwffai iJ.hv Seal iyrl^ 6€<jDs deal dclBovTi* 
&iijLiJL€s S^ fipoToi o75e, jSpoTcbs fipoTol delSwfJies. 

We may now turn from the temporary and confusing 
considerations which have been imported into the subject, 
and try to form a more impartial estimate of the interesting 
production which Mr. Herbert has given us as the fruit of 
several years' almost continuous labour. As is probably 
well known, he has selected for his subject not that more 
humanly dramatic and exciting scene when Moses first 
came down from Sinai, and heard the shouting of the 
camp as the people worshipped their golden idol, and cast 
the tables of the law from his hand, " and brake them 
beneath the Mount," but his second return, after the 
slaughter and the repentance of the nation, the proclama- 
tion of God in the Mount, and the recommunication of the 
moral law. Yet this subject, if less arduous in its demands 
upon the artist for the representation of earthly passion, is 
one hardly inferior in difficulty to the other, which was 
chosen by Raphael for one of his smaller Vatican frescoes. 
The general disposition of the scene, as Mr. Herbert has 
correctly assumed, must have been the same. The people 
have been waiting, though without their former relapse into 
idolatry, during the forty days' sojourn of their leader ; the 
guards, as we see them here, would naturally have been 
maintained about the skirts of Sinai ; and the return of 
Moses, if not a similar cause of wonder and alarm to his 
unfaithful followers, must have been accompanied with the 
heart-shaking awe and speechless reverence which would 
surround one who was believed to have just come down 
from the immediate presence of Divinity^ It is, indeed, 



154 ESSAYS ON ART 

upon this second return that we first read of that light about 
the Prophet's face which struck the people as the attesta- 
tion of his supernatural message. "They were afraid to 
come nigh him. And Moses called unto them ; and Aaron 
and all the rulers of the congregation returned unto him ; 
and Moses talked with them. And afterward all the 
children of Israel came nigh. And till Moses had done 
speaking with them, he put a vail on his face." This is 
the moment, apparently, selected by Mr. Herbert, who has, 
however, so far deviated from the history that he has brought 
a number of the people, and even a crowd of camp-followers, 
forward, together with Aaron and the " rulers of the congre- 
gation," whilst at the same time, he has dispensed with the 
vail which (it would rather seem) was worn during the whole 
period of the colloquy. Moses stands at the foot of the 
mountain, holding the tablets, which in structure and colour 
are properly made identical with the surrounding rocks. 
Aaron has stepped forth nearest; in a line behind stand 
Joshua, his father Nun, Nadab, and Abihu, with the Princes 
of the people. Four or five figures, including Miriam, kneel 
or lie in front. On the other side are grouped Caleb and 
a Midianite shepherd, with Bezaleel to the extreme right. 
Two figures are pointing upwards to the Mount ; some girls 
and children, and a mixed multitude, are also scattered 
round to complete the composition. A distant view of the 
Israelite camp, with banners and the coffin-shrine of Joseph, 
leads the eye to the further valleys, glowing at the approach 
of sunset. 

There are in this all the elements of a picture second to 
few in the variety and intensity of its emotions, and Mr. 
Herbert has not overlooked whatever incidents or characters 
are suggested by the sacred story. Thus, beside what the 
Athenians would have called the Protagonist of the drama 



MR. Herbert's *' delivery of the law" 155 

— Moses illuminated before all the people by the emana- 
tions of the Divine presence — we have faith, mingled with 
a sense of shame, in Aaron and the chiefs of the nation ; 
faith pure and unbroken in Joshua ; scepticism or hesitation 
in Abihu and Nadab ; ignorance blended with belief in the 
Midianite and other strangers, who may be naturally sup- 
posed less prepared than the children of Israel to under- 
stand or to accept the mission of Moses. What a varied 
drama is here, yet what a noble concentration of feeling and 
unity of idea ! what a stupendous contrast between the 
Prophet, returned to common life from a second forty days' 
sojourn on high, and the crowd to whom he is now to 
reveal a law which has survived every other system, and is 
accepted as the rule of life over a whole world ! — It must 
have been a strange and a solemn moment when Solon 
placed his brazen tablets within the treasury of Athens ; 
when the ten tables were set up at Rome ; when Charles 
the Great promulgated his code before the German Assem- 
blies ; when the Barons attested the Charter in the river- 
side meadow below Windsor. Yet even the most sceptical 
of critics will admit that, putting aside the supernatural 
elements of the occasion, here was a giving of a law more 
overpowering than all those we have mentioned taken to- 
gether, in its influence on the fate of man. Add to this the 
singular picturesqueness, in its mere external adjuncts, of 
the whole — remembering also that not only is the presumed 
actual scene unaltered, but that, in the hitherto changeless 
East, the actual dress and appearance of the actors have in 
great measure survived — and we shall then have a bare and 
imperfect idea of the facts of this great occasion. 

It is hardly rash to assume that Christendom has not yet 
produced the painter who could do full justice, even within 
the limited sphere of art, to a moment at once so rich in 



156 ESSAYS ON ART 

interest and so difficult. Men like Michel Angelo or 
Tintoret might have declined the commission with pru- 
dence, arguing, as artists of their calibre probably would 
argue, that anything short of high success in the case of 
such a theme would be failure. We will now give our 
reasons for thinking that, when the little halo of immediate 
popularity has faded, it may be regretted that Mr. Herbert 
did not more accurately measure his powers with the de- 
mands of his undertaking ; but the above brief indication 
of the inevitable and inherent arduousness of the task, may 
meanwhile indicate also the large forbearance due to the 
attempt, if, looking at these requirements, we must entirely 
decline to hold the result, in essential respects, successful. 

There is, indeed, much which does credit to the painter. 
There is drawing, if not powerful, yet more careful than the 
English school generally reaches ; a well-balanced distribution 
of masses, with a skilful conduct of the lines ; and as elaborate 
a study of Oriental dress and of characteristic figures as 
could be made by a painter who had not visited the East. 
The landscape is also a conscientious reproduction from 
the photograph, but managed with considerable skill so as 
to increase the general effect. There are some truly grace- 
ful groups of girls and children, and altogether an absence 
of mere Academical display on the one hand, and of vulgar 
effectism on the other, which shows that Mr. Herbert has, 
so far, rightly comprehended the conditions of " historical " 
art. In these respects his picture stands in favourable con- 
trast to the sentimentalism and the superficial treatment 
which some of the frescoes at Westminster exhibit. It has 
been only after many years of effort, and in conjunction with 
a system of artistic training much more complete than Eng- 
land has hitherto furnished, that the modern French school 
has reached that excellence which Ingres, Delaroche, 



MR. Herbert's "delivery of the law" 157 

Flandrin, and others (despite the sentence which we have 
quoted above) have displayed, and as a step in that direc- 
tion we hail this latest of our frescoes. This must not, 
however, relieve us from the necessity of adding, in the 
interests of art and of truth, that those good intentions 
on the artist's part to which we have tried to do justice 
have been, we think, but imperfectly carried out. The 
central idea of the story of Exodus appears to us totally 
wanting. That idea, every one will admit, is the Super- 
natural revealing itself to man. No closer or more im- 
posing contact between the Creator and his creatures is 
spoken of in Scripture. But the impression of the super- 
natural — except so far as it may be conveyed by the con- 
ventional rays which glitter round the head of Moses — 
is nowhere in this picture. Moses here is simply a fine 
Arab chieftain (though most inappropriately clothed in 
a common camel-driver's dress, not such robes as are worn, 
in the East by any man of high-bred or religious pre- 
tensions), wrapt seemingly in thought, but rather fatigued 
than lifted up by the vision he has just quitted : rather 
perplexed than enlightened. Those to whom he conveys 
the law direct from God are equally uninspired by the 
peculiar solemnity of the moment. Aaron's air is that 
of a submissive companion. Joshua is moved by no more 
ecstatic faith or reverence than those who had lately 
apostatized to idolatry. It is only when we learn their 
names that we recognize the future infidelity of Nadab 
and Abihu. Miriam, who covers her eyes, and one or two 
more figures, are the sole persons who seem cognizant of 
what is passing. A circle of figures, arranged above the 
door, we are told, is symbolical of human life ; it consists 
of a careless child, a mother, a shepherd, a Nazarite, and a 
Levite. We cannot find any peculiar ingenuity or propriety 



158^ ESSAYS ON ART 

in this idea ; but, allowing it to be in place, we fail alto- 
gether to see how the thought is realized by this juxta- 
position. In the crowd, a vague curiosity seems the 
prevalent feeling. The women nurse, or give water to, 
the children with graceful indifference. To borrow a phrase 
of Beckford's, these are " well-bred people, and quite accus- 
tomed to miracles ; " or rather, as we cannot help feehng, 
there is nothing of the miraculous in the design. In a 
word, singular as it may seem, this ^* Moses returning from 
the Mount " might almost have been the work of some dis- 
ciple of Voltaire or of Renan, anxious to bring before us 
Arab life and the Sinaitic landscape, and at the same time 
to express, not only the comparative unimportance of the 
event historically, but its freedom from supernatural inter- 
vention. 

We should be very sorry to be understood to imply that 
Mr. Herbert's work is deficient in reverence. Yet we can- 
not think that his hand has justly seconded his heart. It is 
as if he had, in Plato's phrase, " approached the Gate of the 
Muses without inspiration." Hence the coldness which we 
feel, w^hilst recognizing the lofty aim of the work, and its 
technical merits. Looking at it as a whole, it has a certain 
well-posed elegance, and, as we have said, never offends by 
theatrical or vulgar sentiment ; it is thoroughly " genteel " 
painting, to put our criticism into one word. These are 
negative merits; yet — 

Est quiddam prodire tenus, si non datur ultra. 

Nature strictly and severely defines the limits beyond 
which, say what we will, and be complimented as we may, we 
cannot go. Nothing in any previous work of Mr. Herbert's 
that we have ever seen has pointed to better things than 
what we find here. He seem? to us one example of that 



MR. Herbert's "delivery of the law" 159 

common and innocent miscalculation, which leads a man to 
attempt what is beyond his natural faculty. There is no use 
in it however ; Non datur ultra. 

We cannot conceal our impression, for which the preceding 
analysis contains the apology, that, as a veritable repre- 
sentation of a given event, Mr. Herbert's fresco completely 
fails. But, at the same time, we would, in conclusion, re- 
mind our readers once more, not only of the worth of his 
conscientious labour in other respects, but of the amazing, 
the almost insuperable, difficulties of this subject. One 
cannot name in fancy above three or four men who would 
have been likely to succeed here, and these would be 
simply the greatest men in the art. Mr. Herbert's own 
modesty would, we are sure, be the first to refuse endorsing 
the lax language of that flattery which speaks of him as 
their rival. 



ON SOME RECENT PICTURES BY 
MR. HOLMAN HUNT 

(June, 1864) 

Pictures from Scripture subjects, especially when they are 
dealt with in an entirely original manner, have so powerful 
a hold on English sympathies that Mr. Hunt's " Christ in 
the Temple," when shown by itself three or four years ago, 
we believe actually rivalled the Royal Academy in the mul- 
titude of its visitors. We do not know whether the two 
works which he now exhibits — an Egyptian Girl, and a 
View of London Bridge on the night when the Princess 
Alexandra arrived — with Mr. Martineau's " Last Day in the 
Old Home," can equal that work in attraction ; but the 
peculiar merit and interest of these pictures deserve at least 
as full a recognition from the lovers of English art. And 
we wish the artist all success in that course of separate 
exhibition by which alone, whilst Trafalgar Square is 
crowded as it is, and under all circumstances is likely long 
to be, the spectator is enabled to see a work of serious art 
with the sense of present pleasure, and the hope of lasting 
profit. 

It is an advantage that — the gloss of novelty having worn 
off what used to be called the Pre-Raphaelite school, and 
the school itself (so far as the term ever had any true 
meaning) having taken different directions, according to 
the bias of the artists whose first apparent co-operation 



ON SOME RECENT PICTURES BY MR. HOLMAN HUNT l6l 

gave it a species of unity — we can now speak of art such 
as Mr. Holman Hunt's and Mr. Martineau's without arousing 
those sectarian feelings which, whether for praise or for 
blame, stand so much in the way of sound and satisfactory 
appreciation. The four or five men of genius whose doings 
began to create such a curious stir fifteen years ago set out, 
as genius eternally must do, with an energetic protest against 
conventionality. The "respectable sham," as the great 
belligerent of the day in this warfare might have called it, 
which the young artists first encountered was that careless 
style of working and that commonplace selection of incident 
which had become rather prominent in the English school. 
Art is always, and in all countries, apt to get away from 
Nature, and to try to persuade herself and the public that 
the comparatively facile artifices of the studio — false lights, 
and theatrical attitudes, and showy colour, and generalized 
details— are her legitimate methods. These convention- 
alities, after a time, are sure to establish themselves amongst 
the painters and the public. Then comes a period of in- 
ferior art, and then some such reaction as that we have 
spoken of. Whether the reaction appears in the way of 
protest in favour of severe drawing of the human figure (as 
with David in France), or of return to the eternal principles 
of classical art (as with Flaxman), or of profounder study 
of natural effects, and determination to do the utmost for 
every detail (as with the Pre-Raphaelites), does not appear 
to us, ultimately, of consequence. The fact of the reaction, 
the sincerity of the protest, is the great thing. In this case, 
we might briefly describe it as the endeavour to repeat, for 
the benefit of English art, what Wordsworth and his allies 
wished to do for English poetry. And as, a few years after 
the " Eyrical Ballads " and " Joan of Arc," with their rebel- 
lious prefaces and not always successful novelties of style, 

M 



1 62 ESSAYS ON ART 

the Laklsts diverged, by the course of nature, into their 
own individual ways, even so already has it been with the 
Pre-Raphaelites. A few foolish critics behind their age, 
with one great poet who, at a distance from home, con- 
tinued to work out his boyish experiences of England in 
powerful verse, maintained the cry against the Lakists ; but 
meantime English readers, in place of a school working to 
a common end, knew only of Coleridge and Southey and 
Wordsworth as men united in aim solely by the bond of 
that genius in which they all more or less shared. The 
origin of the Pre-Raphaelite school must similarly, we think, 
be sought in a very few young painters of real ability, moved 
at first in some degree by a single purpose in their reaction, 
but capable, whatever line that reaction might take, of making 
themselves eminent in art. In one word, (as may be true 
of other reformers also), th^ creed was of much less im- 
portance than the protestation. AH of them may not have 
been equally faithful to their genius, but several have secured 
their fame. And now what remains ii> common between 
men like Woolner, Millais, Hunt, F. M. Brown, Hughes, 
Inchbold, Davis, and Boyce (if they will allow us to group 
them together in what we mean as a first-class, though not 
an exhaustive list), is the signal ability which in general 
marks their work. Their protest, in short, has had its 
effect, and it is as individual artists of power that the world 
at present accepts them. 

Brushing aside then, at once, as altogether secondary 
in importance, questions how far the art before us is 
"realistic," microscopic, "ideahzed," or not, the primary 
motive qualities in Mr. Holman Hunt, if we rightly read 
his genius — intellectual force and artistic intensity — are 
shown with undiminished power in the little Exhibition 
now on view in the Hanover Street Gallery. These are 



ON SOME RECENT PICTURES BY MR. HOLMAN HUNT 1 63 

qualities which go home to every spectator; whether he 
likes the work or not, he is sure to be penetrated by it ; 
and the artist has hence secured a hold upon his generation 
perhaps not inferior to that possessed by Mr. Tennyson. 
With these qualities the list of Mr. Hunt's works — although 
numerically small if we compare them with the productions 
of many amongst his contemporaries — shows that he com- 
bines unusual intellectual and artistic versatility. We doubt 
whether any of our living artists has tried and succeeded in 
subjects so widely apart as the "Isabella," the "Hireling 
Shepherd," the "Awakened Conscience," the " Scapegoat,'* 
and the two sacred pictures by which he is most widely 
known. Besides landscapes, we may now add the " Egyp- 
tian Girl " and the " London Bridge," as additional proofs 
of this uncommon range of power. It is to the head — 
to what is in the man — that we must in all cases look 
for the result of his hands, whether they give us a statue 
or a sonata, a picture or a poem, " Maud " or the " Light 
of the World." In all the fine arts, instinctive as their 
operation may appear (as especially in music), we think 
that this law holds good ; everything does not spring from 
the intellect, but everything is bounded by it. When 
this faculty is not only powerful in itself, but flexible and 
versatile, we may fairly expect resylts of no copimon 
interest. At the same time, these conditions of the mind 
will be apt to lead an artist a little in advance of his 
executive power, especially if the intensity with which he 
conceives and sees his picture renders him unwilling to stay 
his hand before he has put the maximum of thought and 
expressiveness into the work, and finished every inch of it 
to the utmost. Perhaps certain of Mr. Hunt's works, in his 
earlier days, like some of Turner's, have not been free from 
these influences; although, so rarely do we- find an EngHsh 

M 2 



t64 essays on art 

artist who fulfils the conditions under which they act, that 
we cannot be sure whether what looks like intellect in excess 
of execution may not be rather a new phase of art which 
perplexes the spectator by its novelty. At any rate, there 
has been an air of almost too strenuous and perfect elabo- 
ration about some of his greatest pictures. It is true that 
the finish was never what ignorant spectators or merely 
literary critics supposed it, photographic or microscopic in 
its character, and that every added incident and touch in- 
creased the total effect through the imaginative intensity of 
the painter's mind ; yet we have wished that he would not 
always concentrate so much on a single canvas, but give the 
reins more frankly to his invention, and employ his force of 
idea and his mastery over art on more numerous, if less 
highly wrought, productions. 

Mr. Hunt's new pictures show that he is capable of such 
a development of his practice. The "After Glow" (that 
last burning flush which seems to rise as if from the heated 
earth, after sunset, in equatorial regions), as he has named 
the Egyptian Gleaner, is painted altogether in a broaaer and 
larger style than anything he has before produced ; whilst, 
at the same time, the fine delicacy of work by which, and 
by which alone, the whole truth of nature can be given, is 
not abandoned. The girl, as if resting for a moment after 
crossing a pool, stands in a blue dress, which we see to be 
half transparent where it crosses the light, and which, 
through its delicate folds, reminds us of what beauty of 
female form is invisible to the present generation, through- 
out all the streets of Europe. The drawing of the figure, 
both under the dress and where the flesh is shown, appears 
to us worthy of Mr. Hunt's reputation for thoroughness in 
his art. The arms are particularly good. Round the girl's 
head is a series of Oriental veils and ornaments, which we 



ON SOME RECENT PICTURES BY MR. HOLM AN HUNT 1 65 

leave to be named by the learned in Coptic ; in one hand is 
a splendidly-coloured green water-vase ; on her head a sheaf 
of corn, upon which a pigeon is perching. The action of 
this bird, half slipping down and turning round his tail for 
equihbrium, and the effect of golden glow given to the sky 
seen through the long-bearded ears, are each admirable. 
The painting of the sheaf itself strikes us as not quite 
equal to the rest in force of colour and complexity of detail. 
Around the girl fly or hover a cloud of the same noble 
pigeons, of every variety in tint and attitude ; behind we 
see a long level of corn, interspersed with the feathery 
palm. The faint purple-pink of the Nile valley hills closes 
the horizon. Above is the unbroken sky, carried down into 
the picture by a pool behind the girl, the steady surface of 
which bears yet traces of her progress, or of the ruffling 
flight of the pigeons who are tracking her sheaf by its fallen 
grains. It is impossible not to believe that we have the full 
local colour of Egypt, seen when it is most rich and most 
tender, in this beautiful and impressive work. 

Strongly contrasted with the " After Glow " is the " Lon- 
don Bridge," here somewhat too fancifully called " The Sea 
King's Peaceful Triumph." We do not think that the ex- 
planation suggested in this title was wanted to render Mr. 
Hunt's idea clear. He seems to have wished, in this curious 
work, to hand down as faithful and unexaggerated a picture 
of that singular and unique thing — a London crowd bent 
upon pleasure, obedient to law, and almost able to manage 
itself — as his art would convey. This it was, we believe, 
which so moved General Garibaldi on his visit to England, 
and It is carried out in every part of the picture. Law is only 
broken here by the ragged vagabond handing a watch over 
to his better-dressed brother who acts the gentleman in the 
crowd ; and justice is at once vindicated by the never seen 



l66 ESSAYS ON ART 

but ubiquitous policeman. We need not describe the nu- 
merous well-devised incidents of the scene. They are not 
of that melodramatic order which a weaker artist would 
have been compelled to choose in order to give his work 
interest and to make out the composition, but precisely 
such as might have been seen during any single hour of the 
night selected. All that art has done has been to give us a 
rather more typical choice of figures than we should gene- 
rally have seen together. In this aim, we think Mr. Hunt 
has achieved a success not less noteworthy than his success 
in more ideal or inventive pictures. A representation of the 
Londoners of our age so profoundly faithful, giving the 
whole, without caricature, yet without commonplace, we 
have never seen. We are glad that high art — for such, and 
only such, we should consider all really good art — has been 
employed for once on such a subject as this, which, three 
centuries hence, will perhaps be looked at in London or in 
Australia with an interest quite irrespective of the artist's 
powers. Yet, as in all pictures representing artificial light, 
there is a glare and a hotness about it which, though very 
powerfully managed where it recedes into the back-ground, 
renders the nearer portions not so pleasant in effect as 
a daylight picture. Spectators also can hardly escape per- 
plexity when an artist chooses so unusual a scene. We are 
not sufficiently familiar with illuminations and with the 
strange refractions which they here seem to throw over the 
sky, nor with the limitations under which alone art can 
paint such objects, to feel at home readily in such a work. 
The union of clear and coloured artificial fight has also 
added to the artist's difficulties. He has used the darkness 
of the river and the clear obscure of the sky, with its float- 
ing clouds half tinged by earth and half by moonlight, to 
great effect, — but we fear that the civic decorations of the 



ON SOME RECENT PICTURES BY MR. HOLMAN HUNT 1 67 

bridge ^vill convey a melancholy impression of British bad 
taste to the New Zealander of the future. 

Of Mr. Martineau's " Last Day in the Old Home " we 
can now only remark that it has been judiciously added to 
the present exhibition. Although not a new work — having 
appeared with great eclat in the International Exhibition, 
where it won the first prize amongst our latest figure- 
pictures — it is now seen to so much better advantage that 
spectators can give it the study which its merits, already 
fully recognized, deserve. This, again, is one of the truth- 
ful leaves from contemporary life in which our century is 
fertile. Satire no longer grows on this soil. We have no 
public for Fielding or Hogarth. The great Cruikshank illus- 
trates fairy tales. Leech was " oh-oh'd" when he went beyond 
the drawing-room and the kitchen. Whatever happens, we 
are only allowed to bow and look bland. We may no longer 
shrug our shoulders. Even "English Bards and Scotch 
Reviewers " would be now voted mauvais goilt. In return, 
our writers and artists furnish us with pictures of the world 
as it may be spoken of in society, of rare fidelity. This 
style began with Miss Austen, and she still remains in her 
own line absolutely unrivalled. But Mr. Thackeray and 
Mr. Dickens have enlarged her range of description by 
painting deeper passions and more homely life ; and Mr. 
Hunt and Mr. Martineau have here contributed two first- 
rate illustrations to the great Novel by many hands which 
is thus building itself up about us. 



THE PICTURES OF MR. FORD MADOX 
BROWN 

(March, 1865) 

This exhibition of works by a single artist has a marked 
character of distinction about it, from the display which it 
affords of undeniable creative originality — that quality so 
evenly balanced between attractiveness and repulsion, ac- 
cording to the spectator's frame of mind. All originality, 
by the nature of the thing, must be displeasing, we might 
almost say odious, to the commonplace temperament ; and 
even the most open and cultivated nature can rarely, without 
an effort which approaches the painful, expand itself, and 
make room for novel ideas. 

To-morrow to fresh woods and pastures new, 

was a motto, one would fancy, more suitable for Milton 
than for the " uncouth swain " to whom he has assigned it ; 
for some portion of original faculty must be found in the 
mind by which originality can be effectively appreciated, as 
we must be unconscious poets to sympathize truly with 
poetry. But, the effort once made, what intellectual im- 
pulse can rival this in the freshness of life and power which 
it gives us ? What mental pleasure can be equal to draughts 
from some fountain of genius hitherto undiscovered? Sir 
Bulwer Lytton spoke once of that reinvigoration of the 
bodily frame which the " transfusion of blood " is said to 



THE PICTURES OF MR. FORD MADOX BROWN 1 69 

produce. Yet, striking as the effect may be, this affords 
but a faint image of the genial power which belongs to 
transfusion of intellect. The artist whose works are now 
before us has thought proper to enable us to trace his 
career upwards from youth, apparently, to maturity. Hence 
his gallery contains several pieces which attest imperfect 
strength and unfixed purpose. Even his maturest work 
shows occasional symptoms that, in the unusually high and 
difficult ideal at which he is aiming, there is still something 
to be conquered before the elements of success which he 
largely possesses meet in perfect fusion — some beauty to be 
added — some quaintness to be submitted to rule — some 
phases of natural truth to be brought, it may be, into more 
harmonious subordination. We shall touch on these points 
again; what we wish here to enforce is that Mr. Madox 
Brown's art goes home to the mind with the penetrative 
power which belongs only to first-hand transcriptions from 
nature. His gallery startles one into the belief that we 
have in him an artist of singular truth, soundness, and ori- 
ginality ; whilst so strong is the evidence which he gives of 
intellectual insight at once into the spirit of the past and of 
our own day, and of vividness in the dramatic exhibition of 
character, that we must henceforth assign him one of the 
leading places among our very small but honoured company 
of genuine historical painters. 

Mr. Brown has given examples of pictures belonging to 
this class from several phases of history. " William the 
Conqueror on the Field of Hastings " represents that which 
commonly monopolizes the name ; but we should equally 
class as historical " Wycliffe reading his Bible to John of 
Gaunt, in presence of the poets Chaucer and Gower,'* and 
the largest picture exhibited — a rather roughly-painted, but 
effective and well- composed scene from the later days of 



170 ESSAYS ON ART 

Edward III, before whom Chaucer, standing high in the 
centre of the composition, is reciting a poem. Old Gaunt, 
Chaucer's patron, stands behind. The Black Prince, wast- 
ing under the mortal disease which he brought back from 
his French campaigns, is listening intently to the poet. The 
struggle between mental vigour and physical pain, giving 
the face an expression of strange earnestness, is here ad- 
mirable. By him appears the lovely face of his young 
Princess — contrasted with the cunning looks of Alice 
Perrers, that highly- questionable female who plays so 
singular a part in the tragical death scenes of the great 
Edward. Many other persons of the Court are seen, and 
Mr. Brown has here given a larger share to beauty than his 
works generally present. As a whole, this would form a 
mural decoration of which the sole equals hitherto produced 
in England (if we except the great oil-paintings by Mr. 
John Cross, which are not exactly in point here) would be 
the two magnificent frescoes by Mr. Maclise at Westminster. 
The " Willielmus Conquistator " may, indeed, deserve to be 
rated higher than the Chaucer, both in intrinsic interest and 
power as a composition ; but this work the artist has not 
received sufficient encouragement to carry beyond a careful 
sketch. The sound and well-understood painting which 
generally marks these pictures, their dramatic quality, and 
the force with which the scene has been always grasped in 
its central point, when compared with the pompous failures 
and flashy popularities over which the trumpet has been 
recently blown so much, are enough to make an impartial 
spectator, valuing art for art's sake, despair of our public 
commissions. Perhaps it may not be too high a price to 
pay: but it seems a hard bargain that one honest success 
should have to be purchased by a dozen pieces of unsound 
or mediocre character. 



THE PICTURES OF MR. FORD MADOX BROWN T^t 

Subjects from the Bible do not ordinarily rank as " his- 
torical/' and this is easily accounted for by the curiously 
conventional way in which they have been painted — from 
the symbolism of the catacombs, through the monastic 
mysticism of the middle ages, to the theatrical style of later 
artists. But the modern mind has now decisively set itself 
to the attempt at representing Scripture scenes with the 
greatest attainable fidelity to the actual fact. To this 
school, of which Mr. Holman Hunt has been hitherto the 
main English representative, Mr. Madox Brown seems to 
have given his full adhesion. As a man of intellect he 
could not do otherwise^ and we are glad to find his abilities 
employed upon the side to which the religious tendencies 
of modern Europe assure triumph. Mr. Brown's most com- 
plete Biblical subject appears to us the " Elijah bringing the 
Widow's Son to the Mother." The aged prophet, thickly 
robed in rich striped Arabian garments, is bearing the 
youth, crowned with funeral flowers, swathed in his cere- 
ments, and still languid with re-awakened life, from the 
upper room. At the foot of the rude ladder the mother 
kneels in an ecstacy of passionate thankfulness. The pic- 
turesqueness of this arrangement, which maybe conjectured 
even from our description, is increased by the skilful use of 
details, and by the subdued brightness of the colour. Only 
the prophet's features do not appear to us of a sufficiently 
high type. This little scene has the sort of dramatic intensity 
which Giotto threw into his designs. A drawing from one of 
the wild incidents recorded in " Judges " exhibits the same 
singular power, to which the choice of subject (Eglon 
stabbed by Ehud) may add. Mr. Brown's largest sacred 
piece, " Christ Washing St. Peter's Feet," might, we think, 
be taken up again with advantage in regard to the figures 
behind, which appear to us awkwardly crowded, and not 



172 ESSAYS ON ART 

happy in the cast of features chosen. The St. Peter is 
here the point of most success ; in expression, colouring, 
and design, this is, again, one of the figures which cannot 
be forgotten. 

We must pass the powerful, but unequal, " Lear and Cor- 
delia" (which may be remembered in the International 
Exhibition), and two later and more tenderly coloured 
quasi-mediaeval scenes (" Sir Tristram's Death," and " Rene 
of Anjou"), with a hope that the artist will not allow his 
remarkable command over archaic picturesqueness to carry 
him too far, and proceed to notice what, after all, has a 
stronger hold on our sympathies than any scene from the 
poets — the pictures taken from modern life. One of these, 
the " Emigrants leaving England," was also shown in 1862. 
^^Work," the other, is the artist's latest production. We 
may at once say, that did not these pictures reach a remark- 
able success in the qualities displayed by those just noticed 
— power of characterization, energy in dramatic idea, mas- 
tery over human form, and (generally) a rich and truthful 
system of colour — ^we should not have held Mr. Brown's 
place amongst true historical painters securely maintained. 
It would, indeed, be but an arbitrary rule which confined 
the painter or the poet, in his choice of subject, to contem- 
porary life. Yet we may safely affirm that only the artist 
who can grasp the present can vivify the past. Now what, 
we are convinced, will most strike visitors to this Gallery is 
that the painter not only, as above remarked, grasps con- 
temporary life, but that he grasps it with an intensity which 
is very rare in any of the fine arts. He strikes home, where 
we all can measure the blow. And to do this with success 
implies, not only the man of technical ability, but the man 
of mind. This, to us at least, appears to give Mr. Brown 
his place — to be his " note," as theologians say. A curious 



THE PICTURES OF MR. FORD MADOX BROWN 1 73 

analogy is here presented to Mr. Tennyson, who would not 
have been so great in the more obviously poetical region of 
the Arthurian Idyl had he not been (in our judgment) 
greater in the more profoundly poetical elements of " Maud." 
Yet Mr. Brown's idea, or mental colouring, if we may pursue 
the comparison for illustration's sake and without desiring 
that it should be pressed far, is more essentially that of 
Wordsworth in the poet's earlier phase : when higher power 
and pathos appeared sometimes negligent of beauty, or 
were blended with phrases of almost prosaic naivete. So 
in Mr. Brown's great picture there are points which jar: 
some crude tones in the sky ; an overabundance of sugges- 
tion ; a want of character, singular to note in a painter of 
so much force, in the figures of Mr. Carlyle and Mr. Maurice, 
who are looking on at a group of stalwart navvies hard at 
work under a midday sun, on the Metropolitan Main 
Drainage Works at Hampstead. We do not hold with those 
who argue that it is illiberal to notice minor shortcomings 
when a work has real first-rate qualities : believing that the 
first, second, and third thing in criticism is to speak the 
truth, due pains having been taken to find it. Hence the 
above remarks : after which let us add, that they are truly 
minor shortcomings, and that Mr. Brown's " Work " is, so far 
as we know, the most truthfully pathetic, and yet the least 
sentimental, rendering of the dominant aspect of English life 
that any of our painters have given us. Pictures in this key 
of feehng cannot be — probably ought not to be — common ; 
they hence demand a more than usual seriousness of ex- 
amination when they have been successfully handled. The 
idea is to set forth together the " labour that is under the 
sun," as shared in, or sought, or put aside, by rich and poor. 
With the Labourers are contrasted different phases of work 
and idleness : the mincing steps of one lady who thinks it 



174 ESSAYS ON ART 

a nuisance that the pathway is interrupted for works which 
ensure health to miUions ; the ill-guided officious piety of 
a second, scattering tracts broadcast over the pit ; the 
policeman whose work, as guardian of that propriety which 
England sometimes worships with cruel sacrifices, is to 
drive the orange-seller from the walks of the "respectable 
classes ; " the Irishman who hardly cares to look for a day's 
job, the wandering herbalist whose labour is but one step 
above vagrancy ; and many more, whom the artist has de- 
scribed in a catalogue, which will assuredly be bound up 
and preserved by all lovers of the curious in literature. In 
justification of our allusion to Wordsworth, we may further 
refer to a group of children in the foreground. Here a 
neglected orphan girl of ten, dressed in the ragged frock of 
some older child, which she has not had time or skill to 
adjust to her own proportions — an " Alice Fell " in brief, 
but unhappily before the famous "new cloak" — is acting 
guardian to a little family. The baby, put into some poor 
mourning for its mother, and the child of four who is so- 
lemnly sucking a carrot by way of a sugar-plum, show even 
in the depths of poverty an innocent cheerfulness, a decent 
orderliness, such as we have often seen in St. Giles's itself; 
and which — bespeaking, as such appearances do, an effort 
of strenuous home affection such as only the very poor can 
measure in its full difficulty — are perhaps not less pathetic 
to the passer-by than the more marked exhibitions of human 
misery. " These," as Lamb said in his exquisite way about 
Hogarth, "are the lacrymae rerum^ and the sorrows by 
which the heart is made better." Diffidently and sparely 
as such approximations should be risked, we may at least 
recognize here some community of genius between Mr. 
Brown and his mighty predecessor. And we are not sur- 
prized to learn, that the picture in question excited the 



THE PICTURES OF MR. FORD MADOX BROWN 1 75 

quick sympathy and received the hearty praise of Mr. Glad- 
stone. 

Our notice, if the view here taken be correct, is enough 
to prove that a very striking exhibition of little suspected 
power in art, alike in regard to quality and quantity, 
to range and to force of representation, has been brought 
before us in this Gallery. Beside the figure-subjects, there 
are some single heads and a series of small landscapes 
worth careful study. These all testify to the same deter- 
mined attempt on the painter's part to put on his canvas 
nothing but the truth, and all the truth, which his art can 
master. The detail of his execution varies, we may add, in 
proportion to the degree in which that maximum is attain- 
able. Character has been mainly aimed at in the portraits; 
absolute veracity of light in the " Windermere," " Hayfield 
in Twilight," " Walton on the Naze," and the other land- 
scapes ; both in the Coast-scene visible in the " Lear." 
Hence their singular merit in general tone. Whilst the in- 
tellectual and creative power of the artist must of course, 
from one point of view, be rated as the most important of 
his capacities, he shows himself aware also that the first 
duty of a painter is to be able to paint. Mr. Brown has 
empowered us, with a courage which has some justifiable self- 
confidence in it, to judge of his course in both directions, 
by fairly showing specimens of his work from youth upward. 
Looking now at the result thus exhibited as a whole, a 
marked and steady advance in thought and in execution 
may be deservedly noticed. At the same time, the unusual 
number of the elements that constitute high art in the strict 
sense, which Mr. Brown has attempted to combine, have 
rendered his success unequal. He will probably require no 
critic to make him aware that, when so much has been 
aimed at, the elements can with difficulty be brought into 



176 ESSAYS ON ART 

perfect harmony. These are the points which afford an 
easy opening to lovers of the commonplace and hangers-on 
to the skirts of " roaring popularity," to lecture gaily upon 
lapses which the art that takes things easy never meets, or 
has no trouble in evading. In the vigour and success of his 
protest against the false light and false colouring, the facile 
sentimentalisms and conventionalities, to which weaker men 
are compelled to have resort, a brief descent into crudity 
and quaintness, an occasional want of ease and of charm, 
may be here and there remarked, and forgiven. The artist, 
as we judge from the dates affixed to his works, is now in 
the strongest years of life. We have already indicated the 
field in which, for public advantage, he eminently deserves 
emplo)nnent. Let us add the expression of a hope, in re- 
turn for the high pleasure which he has given us, that one 
lesson from the older — let us say the nobler — school of art 
will not be lost upon that Gothic imagination which, as we 
find everywhere in the art of modern Europe, has moulded, 
and is stamped upon, his productions. He shows that, in 
what we have called an intense grasp of contemporary life, 
he has a share in the " note " of all that was best in Grecian 
fine art — poetry, sculpture, and painting. We think that his 
attempt should now be to add to this, Hellenic moderation. 



THE CRUIKSHANK EXHIBITION 
(July, 1863) 

Old George Cruikshank has been old George Cruikshank 
any time during the last thirty years to those whose nursery 
days date so far back. Indeed, we have heard his illustra- 
tions to Grimm's Fairy Stories spoken of as the delight of 
their youth by some whose childhood dates forty years ago, 
whilst the similar labour of love which he has devoted to 
Jack and the Bean Stalk is the thumbed and tattered darling 
of many who do not yet aspire to rank in the rising genera- 
tion. He must, in fact, be old George Cruikshank, we are 
afraid, in the number of his years ; yet our century has seen 
no better example of that ever-youthfulness which is one of 
the most frequent and least doubtful signs of genuine genius. 
That the name of Cruikshank deserves to be coupled with 
this epithet has never been dubious to those who, looking 
beyond certain mannerisms and limitations in his power as 
an artist, can appreciate high gifts to move both tears and 
laughter, exhibited on however small and unpretending a 
scale j or who can value downright originality, expressing 
itself in its own manner, irrespective of popular fashion ; or 
who are aware what peculiar skill he has reached as an 
etcher. But when a great man comes before the world in a 
modest way of his own, working often in the by-places of art 
or literature, and addressing himself to illustrate children's 

N 



1 78 ESSAYS ON ART 

books with the homely, healthy purpose of only making 
them laugh at a giant, or look frightened at a ghost, people 
are apt — in this age of sensation and worship of the muscular 
— to take him at his quiet valuation, and pass by sterling 
excellence with slight or grudging recognition, as they turn 
to some loud trumpet-blowing hero of the hour. Especially 
may this happen when a man's work has been spread over 
half a century, and must be sought for in a hundred stray 
volumes, or studied in the portfolio of a collector. And 
we are, therefore, glad that a large proportion of the opus 
Georgii has been put together at Exeter Hall in time to let 
his countrymen make themselves aware of his merits, whilst 
he is still alive to enjoy a reputation which none of his con- 
temporaries have laboured more conscientiously to win, or 
have deserved more thoroughly. 

His saltern accumulem donis. 

Every true artist, from the close relation in which his art 
stands to his mind and nature, is sure to have two or three 
modes of expressing himself, which answer, more or less, 
to the main divisions of life. Cruikshank's works, as ex- 
hibited at Exeter Hall in more than a thousand etchings, 
appear to obey this law, and may be distributed in a general 
way into distinct styles. As in the case of Beethoven or 
Turner, there is a kind of prelude before the young designer 
had fairly found his path, and whilst he was trying his first 
steps in a lawyer's office ; but the bent of his nature at last 
had its way, and like Horace, non sine diis animosus infafts^ 
he entered on the field of political and social caricature, 
modelling himself after the fashion of Rowlandson, Gillray, 
and other celebrities of sixty years since. We must own 
that in Cruikshank's first style, even as partially represented 
here, there are some proofs how difficult it is to treat coarse 



THE CRUIKSHANK EXHIBITION I79 

manners without lapsing into coarseness ; and we are asto- 
nished at the general change in our ways which the artist has 
lived to witness and to perpetuate. Art, like Poetry, was 
in Opposition during the Regency, and the manners of the 
Court and of the " fashionables " and " Corinthians " during 
the Castlereagh and Caroline period are roughly handled 
by Cruikshank, in a rather crude and violent style of en- 
graving ; although from the first his execution has a direct- 
ness, a meaning, and sense in every stroke, which at once 
reveal the imaginative artist, and separate his work by the 
" line of life " from such ignorant dashing about after effect 
as we see in many etchings. 

Returning to Cruikshank, his large early coloured prints 
look not less foreign to us as pieces of art than as represen- 
tations of reality. Will any gentleman undertake to assert, 
on his honour, that he, or his father, ever dressed and turned 
out bodily, in the fashions of 1804 ^-nd 1805, as the artist 
reveals them? One can hardly help thinking that these 
queer disguises of the "form divine" should have been 
catalogued under the title " Monstrosities," appropriately 
enough given to the fashions current from i8i6toi826. One 
of the best of the designs of this period is " Coriolanus and 
the Plebeians." In these portraits of the primitive Radicals 
of 1820, the element of caricature, over-predominant in 
Cruikshank's first style, is united with a fine rendering of 
expression in the faces, and the crowd is drawn with the 
artist's peculiar skill. We know very few indeed who can 
be set beside him in this peculiar faculty. Cruikshank's 
crowds give one exactly the impression of reality. They 
show a certain monotony, from the common impulse of 
the mob, yet they are full of characteristic figures, no two 
exactly alike. There is also all the due sense of air, and 
motion, and fluctuation about them. They are penetrable 

N 2 



l8o ESSAYS ON ART 

crowds, especially the Irish, which he delights to draw — 
true mobiles^ ready to break out into new mischief, or disperse 
before the onslaught of the Saxon. The twenty spiritedly 
touched and delicately handled illustrations for Maxwell's 
History of the Irish Rebellion are excellent samples of the 
artist's skill in managing a mob, and, by the refinement of 
the work and the greater delicacy and humour of the ideas, 
point to what we may venture to call his second style. 

Under this we class by far the larger number of the delights 
of our and everybody's childhood — beginning, perhaps, with 
the famous fairy scenes from Grimm, and thence onward, 
through a vast series of " wonders of the needle," to the 
illustrations of Scott and Shakespeare, of Dickens and Ains- 
worth. Cruikshank has now quitted politics, which, in fact, 
he had in the first period of his activity looked at mainly 
from the social point of view, without taking a distinct side. 
Hatred of meanness, cruelty, and injustice, has been 
throughout the motive principle in his satire, and this has 
been alone sufficient to render him but a poor political 
partisan. The " Bank-note not to be imitated " is one of 
his latest essays in this direction. This curious paper, 
covered with grim emblems, and signed by Jack Ketch, is 
a m.onument of that cruel phase of the law when wretches 
were hung in crowds for the simple passing of a forged 
note — an occurrence naturally frequent whilst paper for 
small amounts was current. Well may the honest-hearted 
artist take to himself some pleasure in the belief that his 
admirably-timed satire led to a correction of the abuse. 
The " Knacker's Yard, or Voice of Humanity," another 
appeal against human oppression and cruelty, is, in point 
of art, perhaps the most striking illustration here of 
Cruikshank's tragic power, which Mr. Ruskin, in his brief 
but excellent criticism on the artist, justly places on a level 



THE CRUIKSHANK EXHIBITION l8l 

with his comic genius. This little plate is scarcely below 
Rembrandt in force and largeness of style, and it is in- 
formed with an earnestness of purpose which the art of 
Rembrandt's time never aims at. In this respect, Cruik- 
shank has a close affinity to Bewick. As an example of his 
range of power, it is instructive to compare the gloom and 
horror of this last refuge of too many a noble animal with 
the humourous presentment of a somewhat similar idea in 
the plate of Horses out of work, stretching their lean necks 
to criticize the train which passes their stable in the infancy 
of the railway system. Much as we admire that command of 
tragic power and that earnest simplicity of mind which, 
though sometimes talcing forms not free from exaggeration 
or onesidedness, render Cruikshank decidedly the first illus- 
trative designer of the time, yet we must be glad that his 
pencil and his etching-needle have been generally em- 
ployed to rouse our laughter rather than our seriousness. 
Innocent mirth has never had a patron more effective. 
The World going to the Great Exhibition — a title which that 
of 1851 has not yet surrendered — a certain series of the 
"Adventures of Mr. Lambkin," the "Housemaid and her 
Followers," the " Female Jury trying a Breach of Promise 
of Marriage " — these, and a hundred other exquisite pieces 
of Fun (whether Wit or Humour we leave North Britons to 
decide) crowd before us ; and we feel that we can hardly be 
too grateful to the skilful hand, simple heart, and inventive 
intelligence which have given us so much wholesome and 
unworldly pleasure. 

There is yet another phase of Cruikshank's art which 
deserves peculiar attention. Every artist is sure to have 
his speciality, and, perhaps, if it were needful to select 
Cruikshank's, it would be rather his gift for rendering the 
fairy supernatural world than even his directly comic or 



152 ESSAYS ON ART 

tragic designing. No one has so singularly penetrated into 
the soul of popular superstition. Cruikshank's witches are, 
so far as we know, absolutely unrivalled. They exhibit 
exactly that mixture of anility and malice, of half wicked, 
half inexplicable fun — and all with a certain strange dash of 
superhuman power, not quite devilish, but decidedly not 
quite canny — ^which the fairy legends of Grimm or Scott 
ascribe to them. The illustrations to Grimm and to the 
Demo7iology are examples. In the latter, the " Witches' 
Voyage" is a perfect masterpiece of humour, satire, and 
supernaturalism. It is only through a true gift of imagina- 
tion that the artist can have reached this success. In this 
respect, what a contrast he offers to the once-fashionable art 
of Retszch ! although we have not space here to do more 
than indicate the difference between the penetrative insight 
of Cruikshank and the mechanical agglomerations of horror 
which Retszch has substituted for imaginative witchery. Nor 
should the excellence of the landscape features and other 
accessories, in these and similar etchings of Cruikshank's 
later period, be overlooked. His little bits of background 
and sky are handled with wonderful truth and spirit. There 
is an extraordinary unity of effect in the tone of the land- 
scape, reached by the simplest means ; whilst, in giving a 
picturesque air to these portions of his subject, he may be 
again fairly compared to Bewick. 

To this great artist — for to that title, due consideration 
given to all sides of his work, we think his claim fully made 
out — we have devoted these brief notices, not because he is 
among the unknown men of genius, but because his popu- 
larity does not appear to us to have been hitherto justly 
measured to his deserts. We do not mean that Cruikshank 
has not gained a very considerable share of favour and 
admiration. But this he has mainly received from the 



THE CRUIKSHANK EXHIBITION 183 

young, and those whom we may, without offence, call the 
unliterary classes. The value of such suffrages is, indeed, 
not to be rated low. They are given honestly and simply 
" on the merits ; " they are far more valuable than the 
reputations due to art-puffery, fashion, and partisanship. 
But George Cruikshank has not, we think, taken rank in 
ordinary parlance amongst the great artists of the day, and 
in this respect he deserves a different, if not a higher kind 
of popularity. Many causes have probably led to this. One 
may be that, in his earlier days, Cruikshank, as the lifelong 
foe to cant and quackery and injustice, was in opposition to 
the dominant classes. Though not strictly a politician 
(judging these things rather through the light of sentiment 
than of fact), he had more sympathy with Cobbett than with 
Carlton House. Another reason may be sought in certain 
curious mannerisms which run through his designs, and 
which are probably due to some want in youthful training 
to art. His idea of a young lady is rarely successful, and his 
drawing of the face has never quite cleared itself of its first 
dedication to caricature. A third cause is the fugitive quality 
of many of the books which he illustrated — a fact to which the 
Exhibition catalogue bears curious testimony. Cruikshank, 
like Flaxman, or Stothard, or Turner, seems to have worked 
throughout life with singular modesty, content to take what- 
ever business offered itself, and never inquiring whether he 
was to illustrate a Tom Jones or 2. Jack Sheppard, Another 
reason may be that, in later life, his high tragic power has 
been exercised mainly against those abuses by which the 
poor and the helpless suffer. His sympathies are clearly 
those of a man of the people for the people ; and this 
excludes a drawing-room popularity. Like Thomas Hood, 
whom in this respect, not less than in humour, he resembles, 
he has compelled an entrance ; but he is not familiarized — 



184 ESSAYS ON ART 

not " court qualified," as they say at Vienna. He has not 
condescended merely to amuse, to glide gracefully over the 
surface, to be sensuous with elegance, or hit us only where 
we do not mind, like his witty contemporaries. Exquisitely 
comic as he is on matters fit for comedy, he has told stern 
truths too plainly ; and he is hence not one of whom the 
omnes omnia bona dicere, et laudare &c. can be expected. 
Lastly, satirical and humourous designing lies still, in some 
degree, under that Academical censure or depreciation 
which led Horace Walpole to deny the name Painter to 
Hogarth. Time has done justice to the artist of the 
" Rake's Progress." We do not doubt that he has a like 
reparation in store for George Cruikshank. 



JAPANESE ART 

Mr. John Leighton, a well-known student in the daily 
enlarging field of decorative art, has printed a brief but 
interesting lecture on the art of Japan, which he delivered 
lately before the Royal Institution. The limits of a single 
discourse did not afford scope for an exhaustive treatment 
of this curious subject ; but Mr. Leighton has given several 
valuable suggestions. A fashion — which, we trust, may 
ultimately become a real liking — for newer and more varied 
decoration than we have lately been accustomed to receive 
at the hands of the mere commercial upholsterers, is deci- 
dedly growing up in England, and taking somewhat the same 
place in regard to our dwellings that Gothic has already 
taken in public works of an ecclesiastical or civic order. 
People are no longer satisfied to repeat that stock of Greek 
ornaments, scanty though exquisite, to which the genius of 
our century appears unable to make any essential addition. 
The pomps of Louis Quatorze and the vanities of Louis 
Quinze — the world, the flesh, and the devil, as we might 
call the art of Lebrun and the art of Boucher — are happily 
out of date ; whilst Italian and Gothic decorations are, at 
present, practically confined to a few wealthy experi- 
mentalists. In this state of things, men have naturally 
turned their eyes to the only hving schools of decorative 
art in existence; and many circumstances having latterly 
brought the productions of the far East easily within our 



1 86 ESSAYS ON ART 

reach, a useful service would be conferred upon us by any- 
one who, with competent taste and knowledge, should now 
make us acquainted with the principles which underlie the 
excellence attained (within certain limits) in India, China, 
and Japan. 

Whilst we have indicated, by our last suggestion, that 
this work has yet to be done, and may add that, except by 
some one who has personally visited the countries named, 
it can hardly be done with thoroughness, a few hints on the 
subject may be given, on the strength of the materials 
already before us. One of the most curious facts in relation 
to Japanese art is well brought out by Mr. Leighton. We 
are apt to think of Indian designs as wild and varied in 
comparison with European. But Japan, further East, carries 
to still greater lengths the same passion for irregularity. — 
Pause one moment, my reader, and reflect how marvellously 
this is opposed to British sentiment, from the duchess to the 
housemaid ! — Patterns which, in idea, are common to both 
countries, in Japan assume a less symmetrical arrangement. 
In fact, the law of Japanese ornamentation appears to 
be, that exact repetition of parts, and perfect balance 
of form, should be reserved for the expression of religious 
feeling ; whilst, in the common-life regions of art, the pains 
taken to avoid symmetry and evenness are as great as the 
pains we take to secure them. The commonest little boxes 
of this singular people, such as may be bought for sixpence 
each in Regent Street, are studiously divided from angle to 
angle by oblique lines of colour ; often a bit of pattern 
strangely comes in at the corner, cutting across the main 
design ; whilst the birds and flowers, in direct opposition to 
the truly barbarian rules of heraldry, are carefully placed in 
the unexpected and unsymmetrical portions of the " field." 
We hear tales of the Japanese feudal nobility which are close 



JAPANESE ART 187 

counterparts to what we know of their Western brethren 
during the ages of " faith " and ** chivalry " ; but we cannot 
imagine anything which would seem more barbarous in 
Japanese eyes than the quarterings of a great French or 
English family, parted into its dexter and sinister, and 
coloured in equal defiance of taste with its arrangement. 

This peculiarity of Japanese decoration, however it may 
have been reached — probably by true instinctive judgment 
— might, we think, be summed up by saying that decorative 
art in Japan is based on the same principle as pictorial art. 
The same avoidance of identical forms or symmetrical 
arrangements, the same desire to conceal the art beneath a 
look of nature, guides a painter amongst us, as a decorator 
amongst them. In other words, they draw no sharp line 
between art pictorial and art decorative. And we cannot 
too highly commend, or too carefully study, this idea. No 
sounder canon was ever laid down by the best writers, or 
worked out by the best artists. It is, in fact, the course 
followed by all the European schools which have been 
really great in ornament — being true of Greek, Italian, and 
Byzantine decoration (the latter inheriting directly from the 
old Hellenic traditions) not less than of Romanesque and 
Gothic. Artists have succeeded in decoration, as Mr. Rus- 
kin ably pointed out in one of his lectures, in exact propor- 
tion as they were arduous and successful in the study of 
human form and of natural facts. You cannot have good 
designing in patterns for your dress, unless the designer can 
draw the figure beneath the dress as well. It is impossible 
to set out a diaper, or devise figures for a wall or a carpet, 
unless the artist is familiar with actual leaves, and boughs, 
and flowers — nay, unless he habitually lives in the study of 
these, and only gives his less numerous hours to drawing 
ornament. Hence, amongst other reasons, the want of life 



1»0 ESSAYS ON ART 

and feeling in most decorative details in our new buildings, 
as is conspicuously the case in the Palace at Westminster, 
where the indescribable badness of the figures which people 
the niches prepares us for the failure in much of what is 
meant for simply ornamental work. And we are sorry that 
most of the money spent since on decorative detail in the 
vast majority of our new churches has called forth carving, 
colour, and glass, of hardly better quality. But of this, 
more hereafter. 

To avoid introducing a digressive argument above, we 
confined our remarks, it will be seen, to Europeafi decorative 
art. And it is possible that readers may have thought 
that our limitation proved the l-aw which we stated to be 
partial or one-sided. A superficial knowledge of Oriental 
art would, indeed, appear to confirm this, especially if bas- 
tard and mechanical Moorish decoration, such as that of 
the Alhambra, be tacitly referred to. But not the least 
curious part of our more extended acquaintance with the 
East shows that, under certain peculiar conditions, the same 
law holds good there, and that success in decoration stands 
in a close ratio to success in studying natural form. Thus, 
in India, the magnificent ancient architecture which Mr. 
Fergusson has illustrated and explained was filled with 
figure-sculpture, whilst the capitals and cornices show 
careful study of the native flora. In China, we have long 
known in some degree, through the earthenware of the 
country, that the representation of human subjects holds a 
high place in their art ; and although comparatively fewer 
specimens of Chinese pictures have been imported, yet these 
have received emphatic praise from judges like Leslie and 
Stothard. Japan, lastly, the most perfect of the three coun- 
tries in decoration, is that in which all the other branches 
of art have been carried furthest. The small ivory carvings 



JAPANESE ART 1 89 

and castings in brass are by far the most natural and vivid 
work of the kind which we have seen from any Oriental 
source ; whilst the fine and true feeling of the Japanese, not 
only for birds, apd beasts, and vegetation, but for landscape 
in its larger features, is shown with equal clearness in the 
lacquer-work and the popular coloured books which have 
been lately brought over. In these, besides a certain limited 
but decidedly marked sense of humour, there appears to be 
considerable dramatic power in the human figures ; and the 
landscape backgrounds are not merely characteristic in 
themselves, but seem also, so far as we can decipher the 
plot of the stories, to take their place in illustrating the 
sentiment of the scene, as they do in the pictures of 
Hogarth or Leslie. 

Whilst, however, we feel high admiration for Japanese 
and other real Oriental art, and, in comparison with the 
decorative work of any existing European school, think it 
markedly superior, it is at the same time right to notice the 
limits beyond which it seems unable to pass. As we ob- 
serve something in the Greek sculpture and poetry which 
seems to restrain even Hellenic genius by laws imperative 
as those of nature, and to prevent Phidias or Sophocles 
from exactly reaching modern sentiment, so the best Oriental 
artist finds his hand stayed — if not always, yet apparently 
with the rarest exceptions — at that stage in art which, by a 
rather misleading phrase, we call decorative, in opposition 
to pictorial. A more correct definition might be, that the 
Oriental work does not go beyond conventional rendering 
of natural forms, and does not seem animated by much of 
human feeling or intellect. It thus falls essentially, with all 
its excellence, into a secondary rank, although it owes, as we 
before said, that excellence to the fact that it does not aim 
at being simply decorative, but is the best form of art which 



190 ESSAYS ON ART 

the craftsmen can compass, and is successful exactly in pro- 
portion to their power over human form and the facts of 
nature. It was with reference to these qualities that we 
spoke of the Alhambra decoration as bastard and mechanical. 
Nothing could be more unlucky for French and English taste 
than that this, by the accident of its locality, should have 
been brought before the public as the type of Oriental art, 
since it has little to recommend it except a certain ingenuity 
of linear arrangement and pleasantness of colour. These 
qualities are what we should theoretically expect of a school 
of decoration not founded on the study of natural phe- 
nomena ; and the rare occurrence of any natural forms in 
Arabic ornament, with their unskilful handling when at- 
tempted, appears to us (in the dearth of detailed illustration 
or trustworthy criticism on the matter) to confirm our view. 
From such wretched figures as the lions of the Alhambra 
we should expect that even the fine Oriental taste in decora- 
tion would go no further than the labyrinthine networks of 
the court enclosing them. In fact, if we may venture on a 
conjecture, we should be disposed to think that the Moors 
— who, so far as blood and race are concerned in national 
characteristics, are not, it must be remembered, of the 
stocks which peopled India or the Transindian regions — 
were as little gifted with originality in art as in intellect. 
As they took what science they had from Greece, so we 
should look for the elements of their art in Byzantium and 
the little-known Armenian and Iranian provinces. But we 
leave this to the decision of such of our Oriental travellers, 
if such there be, as may think the relics of the wonderful 
civilization which those countries reached when the world 
was young, better worth the study of an educated European 
than the gossip of the harem, or the ten-times-told adven- 
tures of the jungle. 



JAPANESE ART I9I 

In truth, the qualities of Oriental art — its unaffected 
naivete, its limited and childlike grace, and its unfailing 
success in colour — are or seem like what we vaguely, 
but intelligibly, speak of as gifts of instinct, rather than 
manifestations of the human mind. But this should not 
deter us from valuing Eastern technical skill. It gives high 
pleasure within its degree — pleasure high in proportion to 
the intellectual cultivation of the spectator, who can trace 
its qualities to their origin, and can compare it with the 
loftier, but often less perfect attempts, of the Western Indo- 
Germanic races. As a contrast and a lesson to us, not less 
than as a thing complete and admirable in its way, the pro- 
ductions of India, China, and Japan deserve our most 
careful study. Indeed they have many minor points of 
tasteful execution and idea which we have not noticed, be- 
cause, even with the indispensable aid of illustration, they 
would, we fear, hardly be even recognized by English eyes, 
wearied and blunted as they are by the everlasting succes- 
sion of mechanical and mindless decorative failures which 
encumber us in every direction, from chromoliths and 
machine-ruled prints to patent marbles enamelled on slate 
or papier-mache^ wood painted to look like stone, and stone 
painted to look like plaster. As a contrast and a remedy to 
this side of our civilization. Oriental art has a peculiar 
value; and we are in no danger of adopting the special 
tone of character and grade of faculties, so far as these are 
lower or less intellectual than our own, in which Oriental 
art has its origin. The works of the Bengal School of De- 
sign, exhibited at the Exhibition of 1862, with some pieces 
even of Japanese ware, show rather that the danger is in 
quite an opposite direction. Letting alone the risk of war, 
there is great and imminent danger lest the fine traditional 
craft of the East should be marred or ruined by imitation 



192 ESSAYS ON ART 

of the worst Occidental types. Several of the specimens 
alluded to were in the most debased and unmeaning English 
style. So far as this is done officially and on system, we 
trust it will be put down by public taste. In the region 
of art there could hardly be a greater evil than an im- 
portation, not from Japan to South Kensington, but of 
South Kensington into Japan. 

1863 



SENSATIONAL ART 



It may be objected to the above title that, as all Art is 
intended to work on our feelings, so all Art must, by its 
own essence, be sensational. And it is indeed probable 
that the style to which we give the name has grown from 
this common groundwork, and represents, or answers to, 
some popular tendency which may flow, with varying force, 
through the currents of civilized life. Ever shifting as they 
are, these currents run, after all, through limited channels ; 
the thing which has been is the thing which will be again; 
we go from pink to blue, and from blue to pink again, with 
an intermediate transit, it may be, through crimson. The 
elementary tastes of man are not more numerous than the 
elementary tones of nature. We have Cur sentimental and 
our passionate, our physical-force and our intellectual- 
grandeur tints — and she has her seven colours; only in her 
art they are always disposed at once moderately and effec- 
tively. These primary conditions cannot be changed by 
criticism or by chemistry ; but as philosophers analyze 
the spectrum, read between its lines, and compel it to give 
up the secret of its colouring, so by a little close examina- 
tion we may perhaps discover the causes underlying the 
social tone of the day, and point out in a philosophical 
spirit the laws and limits which govern the prismatic splen- 
dour of our civilization. 

*> 

o 



194 ESSAYS ON ART 

These remarks show that we cannot turn to the derivation 
of the word for a definition of what we mean, and what 
everybody will understand, as Sensational Art. What order 
of sensation is thereby intended is more to the purpose of 
our criticism. Some of those feelings which can be ad- 
dressed by the painter are deep, and these in general are 
not lightly to be stirred, but, when moved, retain the im- 
pulse long. Others are open to more immediate appeal. 
They float, perhaps, more on the surface of common expe- 
rience, or they belong rather to the physical than to the 
spiritual side of our nature. The first class of feelings 
speak from the depths to the depths ; de prof undis clamant ; 
they spring from thoughtful or strongly-excited minds ; they 
cannot be conceived or represented with facility ; they call 
^ for patience, knowledge, and delicacy in the artist. The 
more immediate class require rather vivacity, facile force, 
dramatic power ; they touch us rather strongly than lastingly. 
Mr. Hunt's illustration of Measure for Measure is an excel- 
lent example of the first — Mr. Solomon's " Waiting for the 
Verdict," of the second. Each phase of feeling is required 
to complete the pleasure which we may receive from art ; 
each has been the province of great painters ; each, 
however, is liable to its peculiar exaggerations. Dominance 
of sentiment is apt to become sentimentalism. Vigour of 
representation is ready to decline into sensationalism. 

If this theory be correct, it will be obvious that the evil 
of the latter form of degeneracy is the more active. For 
not only must we admit that the style of art is, in a certain 
intelligible sense, lower, but it also tempts the artist, by its 
very nature, to dash and coarseness, to careless drawing 
and violent expression, and the other many forms of mere 
eifectism. This, in turn, leads him to subjects of a com- 
paratively vulgar order, in which the divergence from true 



SENSATIONAL ART I9S 

art will be less perceptible. Even an imperfectly educated 
taste would reject the sensational representation of a Scrip- 
ture scene; and although examples of such are not wanting, 
and that in the older days, yet the treatment was adopted, 
not for effect, but for a supposed religious object. Hence 
the artist now turns to scenes from contemporary life — such 
especially as contain features of vulgar humour or vulgar 
crime. He will reject love for flirtation, dwell on the bride's 
wreath rather than her expression, and choose the forger or 
the traviata for the tragic elements of his drama, if some 
degree of sentiment mingle with his art — taking the repulsive 
I rather than the terrible, and shocking us where he wishes to 
' be sublime. Perhaps he will attempt history ; and then his 
favourite age may be the first French Revolution, with its 
revolting contrasts of a degraded Court and an infuriate 
mob. Or, if the selection be wider, it will be of '* easy 
things to understand" — contrasts as striking as black and 
' white, or "telling incidents" which would make a hit at 
the Adelphi. Meanwhile, his audience will be fit, though 
numerous ; until the highest stage in the sensational career 
is reached, and the newspapers and walls are placarded with 
advertisements that 5,000/. 10,000/. 20,000/. have been given 
for the last masterpiece. The work has a green-baize Exhi- 
bition-room to itself, and the aid of popular counsel, skiMed 
in art-puffery, is called in to glorify its merits and its price, 
and to assure the world that — as the case may be — the 
Rubens or the Giorgione or the Hogarth of our century is 
now before them — the wonder of the day, and already secure 
of immortality ! 

— The earth hath bubbles, as the water hath, 
And these are of them. 

It must, of course, be readily allowed that art of the sen- 
sational order can hardly, if ever, draw the ^mob without 

o 2 



196 ESSAYS ON ART 

some measure of proved ability. Even universal suiifrage 
does not elect a blockhead as an emperor. Nor, further, are 
the limits of such art marked out by definite lines. Pictures 
may be more or less sensational. Vulgar appeal and deft 
commonplace may predominate, as in the two or three 
recent pictures by Mr. Frith, in favour of which the puff, in 
every fine gradation, has been put to no common exertions. 
In another mode, as the Cremorne party passing a drowned 
. girl, exhibited a few years since, sentiment of a rough kind 
may display itself ; whilst in a third — we may name Gerome's 
'• Masquer's Death " or the " Chatterton " of Wallis — the 
conception may be so powerful, and the execution so mas- 
terly, that though it may be questioned whether art does 
not, in so painful a scene, abandon her proper province, 
yet we can no longer apply the term " sensational " to the 
work in a sense of disparagement. Nor, again, would it 
often be correct to use the epithet as the distinctive property 
of certain artists. Gallait, for example — the Belgian painter 
so popular amongst those who are satisfied without refine- 
ment of idea or sincerity of treatment — inferior as he is in 
the great qualities of art to Gerome, like Gerome has not 
confined himself to such subjects only as the execution of 
Egmont, or the madness of Tasso. Mr. Ward — whose 
Parliament House frescoes must be mainly ranked, owing 
to a style of treatment which we will presently analyze, in 
the sensational class — gave in his " Hogarth's Studio," a 
picture which, if exhibiting those deficiencies in high artist- 
like feeling and execution which detract seriously from 
his powers, was free from mere appeal to commonplace 
effect or vulgar humour. On the other hand, good artists 
may be named who have touched the liniits of sensation- 
alism. Hunt's " Awakened Conscience," the picture we 
have named by Gerome, Turner's "Slaver" and " Ulysses," 



SENSATIONAL ART 197 

are magnificent examples, to which those who know modern 
French art can add several more. 

There is, however, no special need to trace the course of 
Sensational Art upwards. Reverting to our definition of it 
as that which deals with subjects calling for vivacity, facile 
force, and dramatic power, although not the form of the 
drama which moves the deeper feelings, it will be easily 
seen that where subjects such as these are skilfully handled 
; we should not think of applying the epithet to them. They 
^are then simply telling pictures of incident, humourous or 
gloomy as the case may be. Wilkie's " Distraining for 
Rent" and "Chelsea Pensioners," Millais's "Fireman," 
Maclise's " Wellington and Blucher," Martineau's " Last 
Day in the Old House" — to take examples from the chance 
supplies of memory — are all pictures which depend for 
much of their effect on sensational elements, but which, ^ 
nevertheless, would not accurately be called sensational. 
Similarly, in literature, the Waverley novels and Shakspeare's 
plays contain far more striking points and moving incidents 
than the very best-devised melodrama. Their popularity 
with the unthinking, as Charles Lamb pointed out admira- 
bly in the case of Shakspeare, rests indeed, in no small 
measure, on these elements. Yet we give the name sensa- 
tional, not to the Heart of Mid Lothian or to Othello^ but 
to the dramas of the Victoria or Miss Braddon's novels. 
So again, whilst Millais's " Fireman " would be spoken of 
simply as a powerful dramatic scene of physical emotion, 
his " Nun's Rescue " was at once recognized as belonging to 
the coarser style. More decidedly, and less excusably such, 
considering the subject, was his Moonlight scene from 
Keats in the Exhibition of 1863. And even in case of a 
genius so magnificent as Scott's, one or two of the later 
novels, as Anne of Geierstein, written when that noble hand 



198 ESSAYS ON ART 

had lost much of its cunning, are not free from distinct 
sensationalism. To inquire why we recognize these differ- 
ences may assist us towards a clearer idea of the subject 
of our paper. 

We have said that sensationalism is the exaggeration of 
vigour. But by this must not be understood that this phase 
of art is simply extreme vigour. Even those who are 
strongly moved by it would not claim for it the great feature 
of strength — enduring interest. Rather, as sophistry was 
defined by Plato to be that which, not being philosophy, 
aimed at seeming to be such — so Sensational Art pretends 
to the vigour which is beyond the ability of the artist. 
Thus, had the dramatist of the Col/ee?i Bawn the intellectual 
power, we will not say of Shakspeare, but of Shakspeare's 
contemporaries under Elizabeth and James, he might, so 
far as the idea of the story was concerned, have given us 
a fair rival to the plays of Beaumont or Massinger. Lacking 
this, he was compelled to obtain vigour and vivacity by 
recurrence to a lower order of sentiment, and to compen- 
sate, by physical incident, for the effect which might have 
been obtained by really vital characterization. A similar 
mode of treatment is not uncommon in the writers of the 
.*' muscular" school. When Mr. Kingsley's confidence in 
the force of his philosophy fails him, he has always a ship- 
wreck or a good run with the hounds at hand to take him 
through. When the author of Guy Livingstone feels a little 
conscious that the reader may not quite sympathize with his 
theories on blood, or his references to Homer, he calls our 
attention to the fact that no one could hit out so straight as 
his hero. So in the fine arts. With all his melodic genius 
and spirit, Verdi cannot write an air like ** Batti, batti ; " 
but he can easily put more trombones and trumpets than 
Mozart into his orchestra. With all his great command 



SENSATIONAL ART 1 99 

over drawing, and fertility of invention, Maclise was unable 
— who could, indeed, hope to succeed 1 — to place Shak- 
speare's Lady Macbeth authentically on the canvas. Yet 
he produced a great effect, not so much by the truly excel- 
lent portions of the picture as by the shadowy management 
of the ghost. Thus, also, in the frescoes at Westminster. 
Take Mr. Ward's " Sleep of Argyle." Here the main point, 
the nodus of the design, was to paint the tranquil rest en- 
joyed upon the verge of death by a patriot conscious he had 
played his part as a man. This the artist has tried to give, 
not by the expression of Argyle himself, but by the con- 
trasted figure of a courtier, whose attitude is that of vulgar 
surprise, which the slipping down of his hat is intended to 
render emphaticaL So, again, in the ^' Alice Lisle," where the 
emotion of the moment, as she steps forth to cover the retreat 
of the fugitive from Sedgemoor, is lost sight of in a painful 
exhibition of feeble old age, and a confused demonstrative- 
ness amongst the chief figures. Even in the "Flight of Charles 
from Boscobel," our attention is drawn, not to the conflict- 
ing passions in the mind of the King, but to the common- 
place awkwardness of the situation, and the coarsely-painted 
splashing of the horse's feet. Allowing the difiiculty of the 
subjects — nor can we, in justice to the requirements of a 
national work, carry allowance far in this case- — what has 
placed this series of pictures on the sensational level seems 
reducible to insufficiency in intellectual grasp for meeting 
the " high argument " of historical painting. The requisite 
vigour of expression for the heads, the necessary force of 
insight which could penetrate to the moral aspect of the 
scenes, were not forthcoming. These qualities have been, 
therefore, supplemented — and, so far as popular estimate 
goes, we believe not unsuccessfully — by recurrence to phy- 
sical emotion, and appeals to the external and easily-seized 



200 ESSAYS ON ART 

features of each occurrence. Vigour which cannot reach 
its end in the most really powerful way, and hence reaches 
it by an inferior road, is thus the essence of sensationalism. 
Bodily emotion takes the place of intellectual. There is no 
need to discuss why such art will share a transient popu- 
larity with the cognate phase of sentimentalism. Nor do 
we here seek to deny that it has a place ; but only to 
point out what that place really is, and how sensational art 
reaches it. 

Even Sculpture, though by its nature moving in a more 
abstract sphere, has not been exempt from the sensational 
element. That want of repose which we feel when passing 
from the Parthenon figures, or the (so-called) Venus of Melos, 
to the Laocoon, is in a great measure due to the too manifest 
effectism in the later work. Still more marked is the change 
when we turn to the mighty Buonarroti. Great as Michel 
Angelo was in penetrative and vivifying imagination, pro 
found in mastery over the form, and potent in dramatic 
characterization, his impetuous nature did not always, or 
often, allow him to maintain that balance of sobriety, that 
fine and golden moderation, which Sculpture has exacted 
from her most consummate followers. The nervous element, 
as it would be expressed medically, is over-poAverful in his 
works. Even had he not thus led the way, by an example 
splendide 7nendax, it is probable that other causes were in 
existence which would have drawn the Italian school of 
sculpture into that degeneracy to which the International 
Exhibition bore such conspicuous proof. Yet it is probable 
also that the influence of the great master has not been 
without a considerable share in the bias towards the sensa- 
tional and the spasmodic which Italian sculpture, with com- 
paratively few exceptions, has manifested for three centuries. 
It isj indeed, difiicult to find a more absolute contrast thaa 



SENSATIONAL ART 20I 

that which lies between the greatness and the science of 
Michel Angelo, and the feebleness which tries to escape 
from itself in the contortions of Monti and Marochetti. 
Yet, without taking the artists just named in their lowest 
phases, works such as the " Dream of Joy," or the " Angel 
of Victory," are startling examples how far Sculpture must 
fall, w^hen it has once admitted any taint of the sensational. 



POETRY AND PROSE IN ART 



By classing art ss poetical or prosaic, we mean simply to 
draw the broad intelligible line which the words in their 
plain sense convey. People may dispute for ever, and 
with the smallest advantage, on what constitutes High or 
Low Art. Indeed, these are epithets so constantly on the 
lips of mere literary theorists that we shrink when we hear 
them. Realist and Idealist, which are occasionally used 
as equivalent to the words we have selected, are not more 
satisfactory. But everyone understands what is meant by 
poetical and prosaic. The distinction here does not lie in 
the technical execution or in the subject of the picture, but 
in the sentiment which inspired it. Poetical or prosaic may 
be epithets true of works executed in the " broad " or the 
"literal" manner.' They characterize equally the Flemish 
and the Italian art. There is no more solid, definite, honest 
prose than one of Domenichino's scenes from the mytho- 
logy^ of Ovid. A hay-barn by Rembrandt will be a master- 
piece of solemn poetry. So of the style of execution. 
Every touch in the finish of men like Van Eyck or 
Veronese, or the two Hunts, our contemporaries, adds 
feeling to their design, whilst it completes it. But the 
minuteness of Denner in his portraits, or of Frith in his 



POETRY AND PROSE IN ART 203 

** Ramsgate Sands," only brings out with more distinctness 
their essentially prosaic quality. David Cox, again, was 
recognized by common fame as a magnificent poet in 
colour ; whilst the hundred imitators of his broad, sketchy 
manner have totally failed to place themselves on his level 
in popular estimate. Turner, on the other hand, a greater 
poet even than Cox, has a minuteness of execution which 
can only be felt — appreciated it cannot be, except by another 
Turner — by aid of the microscope. "There are many ways," 
according to the proverb, " but all of them may lead to 
Rome." 

This very simple and (if the reader will) prosaic result is 
} what we appear to reach — that the quality of all art depends, 
\ finally, altogether on the quality of the artist's mind. We 
S2iy ^na//y, because, if we look at his work, not as completed 
and appealing to those who see it, but as it exists whilst he 
is producing it, the power of technical execution is the first 
and chief point of importance. These two elements — 
factors or functions mathematicians might call them (and we 
suggest the terms, as one cannot illustrate too fully a matter 
which perplexes many people of taste) — must be always 
kept in view together. They hold good of every art. There 
can be no good generalship without accurate knowledge of 
roads, and horses, and drill, and forage. But there can be 
no good generalship also without imaginative foresight, and 
power of organization, and political discrimination. So in 
poetry. Without intensity of insight, and innate sublimity, 
and tenderness without limit, we cannot have Milton or 
Goethe. But Milton and Goethe, when at their work, were 
thinking of words and syllables, and how to write English 
and German; and without this we should have had no 
Comus or Faust And what we observed above of choice 
in subject and manner in execution applies equally to all 



204 ESSAYS ON ART 

art. These in no wise determine the poetical or the prosaic 
quality of the result. Sir R, Blackmore or Professor 
Aytoun have written metrical prose on the most stirring 
themes, and reduced Arthur and Montrose to commonplace. 
We hardly know a surer sign that a poor and feeble type 
of intellect is prevalent in a nation, than the popularity of 
that species of verse in which the jingle of measured 
syllables does duty with the reader for thought or spirit. 
Prose is not so prosaic, in the bad sense of the word, as 
this debasement of what is lofty at the hands of poetry. 
Almost every genuine poet will furnish instances of the 
contrary process. The field-mouse of Burns, the daffodils 
of Wordsworth, the sparrow of Catullus, are familiar in- 
stances ; though to specify them, so common is this elevat- 
ing or ennobling function of art, is needless. 

Why should people find it so hard a matter to accept this 
doctrine, that the quality of all art depends on the quality 
.of the artist's mind ? In stating it, we have felt it almost 
necessary to apologize for its utter want of novelty' or 
strikingness. Yet, when we look at general criticism on 
the Fine Arts, in lieu of such intelligible language, we find 
ourselves in a fairy land peopled with High and Low, 
Historical and Naturalistic, Real and Ideal, Generalization 
and Particularity, and other phantoms of the sort ; and 
amongst them all we see the Fashionable and the Common- 
place stalking like things of flesh and blood in the region 
of shadows, . and naturally, by their own proper and real 
force, guiding the crowd of spectators into the limbo of 
popular taste. Meantime, Dante and Vergil go by un- 
observed, and pass on to write an Aeneid or a Co??tmedia 

with a 

Lascia dir le genti ! 

Such artists know, unconsciously perhaps, that, as it is 



POETRY AND PROSE IN ART 205 

by his mind that man is superior to animals, so it is ever 
by the quality of that mind that one man's work differs 
from another's. The reason why those who are not Dante 
or Vergil try to deny and conceal this must be a conscious- 
ness that it would be fatal to their own pretensions. The 
gods have not made them poetical, but they may get 
Fashion to accept them as masters, if the public eye be 
fixed on their "breadth," or their " ideaHzation," or the 
jingle of their metre, or the thriUing interest of their sub- 
ject. What they cannot bear to hear said is that the power 
of a man's hand is limited by the power of his brain. 
What they also do not see is that they too, if they would 
accept it, have an equally useful and indispensable part to 
play, and that it is wiser to produce honest prose than 
sham poetry. 

Let us illustrate these remarks by a few examples — adding, 
first, that whilst the world would always rank poetical art as 
the higher thing, in the same way as poetry ranks at the 
summit of literature, yet prosaic painting or sculpture has 
also a recognizable place amongst those diverse purposes 
which art fulfils. If it be granted that poetry in colour or 
carving springs from the poetry of the artist's own mind, 
we have an easy explanation of many failures and successes. 
Nothing in all art has yet equalled the sculptures of the 
Parthenon in poetical quality of the very highest order. 
But this will not astonish any one acquainted with Athenian 
history, when he finds that Phidias was the intimate and 
equal friend of Pericles. Michel Angelo has left poetry 
which of itself explains the intensely imaginative and crea- 
tive character of his statues and his frescoes. Flaxman — 
to take one of the few moderns who may rank with such 
men in point of intrinsic capacity — displayed the poetry of 
his own mind in those endless illustrations which are rather 



206 ESSAYS ON ART 

like a comment on Dante or Homer, than simple repro- 
ductions of his original. In a better age, or amongst a 
more congenial people, he would, no doubt, have been 
appreciated — as indeed he was by Rogers and by Canova, 
whose astonishment at finding Flaxman totally neglected for 
Chantrey is well known. Yet even in the few works he was 
able to execute — as in those left by a somewhat similar 
genius, Watson — he showed the truth and tenderness of his 
nature. What a satire on our taste it is that hardly one 
public work of high character was ever given to the only 
Englishman of that time whose faculty was capable of serious 
poetry in bronze or marble !^ — ^just as, in our own day, we 
have twenty failures by Noble, Theed, the Adams', and 
others of similar imperfect gifts or training, for one work 
exhibiting the soundness of Behnes and Foley, the con- 
scientiousness of Butler, or the imagination and force of 
Woolner. But here faith never comes till it is too late ; as 
Tacitus %2^\^^po$t eventum credidimus. Meanwhile the public, 
in answer to any appeal, cry always. Tastes differ ! — and so 
they do, indeed, as the next generation discovers to its 
sorrow.* 

Sculptors of high calibre, it is true, will always be rare ; 
that a nation should have one or two such, is matter for fair 
pride ; but the moral is, such should do our work, or we 

* What would we now give, that Flaxman, R. Wyatt, and Behnes 
should have been the decorators of the Abbey in place of the fashionable 
sculptors who, for the last fifty years, have done, and unfortunately have 
been of late again permitted to do, their best in disfiguring it ? Tastes 
differ^ no doubt : for tastes here mean individual likings ; but Taste, 
which is impartially-gathered knowledge, comes always at last, in course 
of time, and is not found to differ in essentials. Who differs about the 
greatness of Phidias, or Michel Angelo ? The real difference is, that 
Athens and Florence did not wait to be wise, post eventum. 



POETRY AND PROSE IN ART 207 

should leave it unatte^npted. If a monument of high quality 
be required, it is suicidal to give it to any but those few who 
can put true poetic life into it. Otherwise we have such 
failures as those which provoke yearly wrath from aesthetic 
and independent M.P.s — fated often to pass by the Napier 
of Trafalgar Square, or the Wellington of Constitution Hill, 
or the Guards' Memorial of Waterloo Place, or the Coeur de 
Lion in such injurious juxtaposition with the Houses, or 
the poetical fountain of Hyde Park, where a fat boy is 
doing his best to set a dolphin on its head, apparently that 
he may see the water run well out of him. The Horti- 
cultural Gardens have been, perhaps, the most unfortunate 
theatre oi fiasco in high monumental art, embracing the 
extremes of extravagance and tameness; from Baron Maro- 
chetti's "Victor Emmanuel" — happily not a permanent 
inhabitant— to Mr. Durham's recent Albert Memorial, in 
which the lamented and intellectual Prince, heavily swathed 
in the cumbrous robes which his practical character rejected, 
surveys the refreshment rooms of the Society from a pin- 
nacle, whilst four dusky Allegories, representing the quarters 
of the globe, sit in patient hope to symbolize an Exhibition 
which mainly recals European art and English manufac- 
tures. Like the rest of the world, we do not criticize the 
worthy sculptor for this prosaic and imperfect rendering of 
a very difficult idea. We are only sorry when Pegasus has 
to fly without wings. There is no conceivable contrivance 
by which a poetical work can be obtained from any but a 
poetical mind, a truth which we would respectfully submit 
to the many patrons who annually undertake the difficult 
task of choosing a sculptor. 

That our conclusions may not seem only negative, let us 
take an example pointing to what sculpture should be even 
under the difficulties which, in this art, blind the perception 



208 ESSAYS ON ART 

of patrons to goodness. England has produced a few 
monuments of highly poetical character. We might name 
Wyatt's memorial of the Princess Charlotte at Windsor, 
where the discordance of the style with the style of the 
chapel should not blind us to the extraordinary merit of 
the group ; or the little reliefs by Flaxman in Chichester 
Cathedral, — one, a personification of Christian Hope, so 
tenderly beautiful, that we hardly know where to look for 
its equal ; — but it will be best to find an instance in con- 
temporary art, and one in which the poetical instinct which 
confers its merit is not so obviously borne upon the surface. 
We take the bronze statue of Mr^Godley^* by Woolner, 
recently on view in the South Kensington Museum previous 
to its shipment for New Zealand, for analysis. Mr. Godley 
was one of the principal founders of the well-known 
*' Canterbury Settlement," and is said to have been a man 
of unusual energy and simplicity of nature ; such a leader, 
in short, as might have been selected in the old days of 
Greece to conduct colonists from Corinth or Phocaea to 
the coasts of Gaul and Lybia. Now what we have first to 
notice, is the success with which the artist has stamped this 
character upon his work. The head is full of vivacity and 
firmness ; the face looks keenly forward, the mouth set, the 
eyes fixed on the horizon with the air of a man who foresees 
at once the immediate labours of the settlement, and its long 
future. The man's character is the central idea in every por- 
trait ; and to seize and render it is the function of poetical 
insight, whether this works in colours, or words, or marble. 
But, further, nature requires that the expression of the features 
shall give the keynote to the expression of the figure. Here, 
again, the work fulfils the required condition ; every line in 
the dress, and of the figure shown under the dress, carrying out 
the idea which we have above indicated, by its character of 



POETRY AND PROSE IN ART 209 

compressed energy and simple resolve. These are what may 
be called the demands of nature on the artist. At the same 
time, the demands of art have been met by the manner in 
which the free and unrestrained action of the limbs has been 
bound into harmony by the disposition of the drapery ; the 
result being that the figure, although instinct with life and 
motion, retains the statuesque character. The man is ready 
to move and speak, yet there is no sense that he will, as it^ 
were, leave his station. In other words, the golden law of 
moderation has been duly kept; the figure stands on the 
delicate pause or crisis between the two opposing dangers 
of sculpture — immobility or heaviness, and over-display of 
motion or spasm. 

A word may be added upon the dress. We often hear 
modern fashions quoted as the excuse for modern failures 
in portrait-sculpture. Here the artist has had the courage 
to model a more than life-sized figure, not even in any robes 
of state, but in the sheer ordinary dress of the working 
colonist. He is hence without one element of obvious 
beauty which is (inevitably) lost by modern manners. Yet 
we are convinced that no one who looks at the statue 
{^(unless he look with the pseudo-classical spectacles of the 
last centuryj^ill feel any deficiency in this respect. The 
eyes are not drawn to the dress ; one thinks of it no more 
than if the real man were before us. This we take to be one 
sure test of excellence in a portrait. When we ask why Mr. 
Wooiner has succeeded in a point in which success is no- 
toriously so rare, the reason will be found to lie solely in 
the truth of representation, as governed by imaginative 
power in the artist's mind. The power of the head con- 
centrates our attention on the leading point. The faithful 
rendering of the limbs makes us conscious of the form 
rather than of its coverings. The dress itself, though finished 



210 ESSAYS ON ART 

with a minute truth which is very uncommon, yet never 
draws attention to the petty details ; it strikes us what our 
friends wear, not as suggestive of their tailor. A " realist " 
would have afflicted us with a consciousness of seams and 
buttons. An "idealist" would have given a dress which 
nobody could put on, or put off. But the poetical instinct 
gives just the right amount of truth, and of truth in its right 
place and measure. The result is a work of which its 
possessors have a full right to be proud, and about which 
we can only regret that, like Mr. Foley's fine " Lord 
Hardinge," it is not English patrons who have had the 
good sense to commission, or the good fortune to retain it. 

(1865) 



LOST TREASURES 

England, according to Dr. Waagen, the learned explorer 
of our myriad country-houses, is absolutely peculiar and 
pre-eminent in Europe for the amount and the value of the 
treasures of art in the hands of her wealthy private pro- 
prietors. France has the Louvre and the Luxembourg, 
each separately richer than our corresponding national col- 
lections. Germany has the famous galleries of Vienna, 
Munich, and Berlin. But, beyond the capital cities, these 
vast countries are almost deserts in the matter of art. Here 
and there, perhaps, a few provincial museums remind the 
traveller of the fuller feast provided for him in the capital. 
But in England, besides the many special collections within 
London, any country-house we pass may contain its Titian 
or its Turner. Royal galleries of sculpture are housed in 
Bowood and Wilton, Woburn and Ince Blundell. Dr. Wel- 
lesley at Oxford, and the Duke of Devonshire at Chatsworth, 
possess collections of original drawings by the great masters 
which only three or four foreign cities at the most can rival. 
Elsewhere are rooms filled with frail wonders in china, or 
cases heavy with the gems and coins on which the art of 
Greece has stamped in miniature the lines of her immortal 
beauty. 

Who, we ask next, are practically the guardians of treasures 
such as these 1 They are practically under* the guardianship 



212 ESSAYS ON ART 

of the housemaid. She is assisted in preserving them by 
the plumber. Most of the houses, consecrated thus to 
men of taste by contents for which the gold of Australia 
has no equivalent, are of large size. Some of the richest 
in art are of palatial extent. In every one are endless open 
fireplaces. In every one are furlongs of repair-requiring 
gutter. In no one that we know of are the collections 
placed within rooms fireproof in any valid sense. In most 
they are enshrined between floors of the oldest and most 
invitingly combustible of timber. When we see Petworth 
or Manchester House, Chatsworth or Blenheim, Hamilton 
Palace or Castle Howard, we are always reminded of some 
delicate maiden who, in the old legends, walks abroad 
through forests or cities at nightfall, presuming that she is 
under the protection of her guardian angel. Housemaids, 
pages, and plumbers are the guardian angels of our national 
treasures. The visitor looks with all his eyes, and vexes 
the housekeeper by returning once more to study that ex- 
quisite bit of Raphael. For he thinks it may be a cinder 
before he comes again. 

What we have here dwelt upon is no fanciful idea. Tak- 
ing the most cursory retrospect of the last two hundred 
years, England alone has lost, in the fires which ravaged 
Whitehall and Sir R. Cotton's house, treasures whose value 
it would be difficult to over-estimate. Hardly a winter 
passes but with it passes away some vast country-house, 
including, more or less as the case may be, a long-gathered 
series of family relics. Even the famous illuminated manu- 
script which King Alfred gave to the Archbishop of 
Canterbury was burnt, as we are writing, under the chief 
librarian's eyes at the British Museum, — where the com- 
monest precautions would have ensured its safety. Some- 
times what the world loses are those things of beauty which 



LOST TREASURES 213 

the poet idly boasted are a joy for ever. Sometimes it is the 
reUquary, if we may employ the phrase, of one of our great 
historical families, which is left, as it were, parvenu in the 
country by the annihilation of ancestral heirlooms. It is 
certain that no small part of the original records of Wales 
has perished, within the last ten years, in the ruins of 
Wynnstay and Pengwern. People in general hardly know 
within how small a space, and in how few repositories, lie 
the main links which actually connect us with the past his- 
tory of mankind. They are certainly little aware of the 
responsibility which the possession of things valuable for 
art or for antiquity brings with it. We hear often of the 
duties of wealth. We wish we heard oftener of the duties 
of proprietorship. Much as Europe has been robbed of by 
war, it may be doubted whether the annual steady consump- 
tion of private houses through simple chance or negligence 
does not equal war itself in the long run. England is 
crowded with wealthy or cultivated men who are heaping 
up treasures — to their destruction. It is crowded with 
offerings which may be said to be already dedicated to 
Moloch. We are resigned to the full conviction that none 
of those who are guardians of what are really public monu- 
ments, and who read these lines, will pay the slightest heed 
to our warning. We know that we are vox clamantis. The 
fatal hour always comes at last, between Nothing can be 
more improbable and Who would have thought it? And 
yet the remedy is a matter of no real difficulty. It would 
rarely cost so much as a contested election, where one 
of the candidates will be repaid by nothing except the 
"gratitude of his party." All that is wanted is that every 
one who builds a new house should require that it shall 
be built with fireproof floors, thus at once improving his 
comfort, securing his valuables, and saving his insurance ; 



214 ESSAYS ON ART 

or that those whose houses are already in existence should 
place their treasures within a detached and fireproof cham- 
ber. What great lord, or commoner ennobled by his col- 
. lections, will take our advice, and, when he next hears of 
the destruction of a Hatfield or a Crewe, be thankful that 
the, a least, showed common sense in time ? 

This practical and, we believe, almost unqualified private 
insecurity would seem to suggest that it is cause for rejoic- 
ing, if only for safety's sake, when treasures are secured 
from loss by deposition within one of the national museums. 
In a certain degree, this indeed is so. The special risk of 
the private, and more particularly of the country-house, is 
the number of fires kept up in what we may call the un- 
guarded parts of the building. There is always some out- 
of-the-way stove, or some forgotten flue, which ends, or will 
end, in burning down the sedulously watched gallery. It is 
only a question of time. Public collections are more or 
less free from this source of destruction. Yet even amongst 
these there are often (as at Trafalgar Square) one or two 
sets of rooms used for private residents. These subsidiary 
dwellings were the ruin of the Old Palace of Westminster 
and of the Pordenone (miscalled Titian) Gallery at Blen- 
heim. Yet this evil would be comparatively unimportant 
if the buildings were fireproof. Will it be believed that, after 
centuries of experience of fire and of experience in con- 
struction, there is not one of our public galleries or libraries, 
the Record Office excepted, which can be called strictly 
fireproof? Even the British Museum and the National 
Gallery are only approximately so. A combustible roof 
(we believe) protects, till it destroys, the marbles of the 
Parthenon — as another such roof covers, till plumbers will 
it otherwise, the almost equally priceless treasures of the 
Abbey. Other repositories, notably those of the two 



LOST TREASURES 21 5 

wealthiest Universities in the world, invite the flames by 
every feature of their construction. But it is in vain to try 
to move the sluggish guardians of this more than national 
property. The new Library at Cambridge is ceiled with a 
lath-and-plaster mimicry of vaulting. All the efforts of that 
distinguished Professor of Greek to whose devotion Oxford 
is so deeply indebted, have failed to obtain protection for 
the world-famous stores of the Bodleian.* 

Educated men who pass that library or the Abbey at 
Westminster must often think, with a union of pride and 
reverence, how large a portion of English and of universal 
history, in the form either of record or of relic, is laid up 
within those walls. Let them add to the reverence with 
which they regard these sanctuaries, and to the pride they 
take in them as Englishmen, another feeling — a sense of 
humiliation, not unmixed with wrath, that an hour's neglect 
or a minute's wilfulness may at once and for ever do for 
Abbey and Library what Omar is said to have done for 
the Museum of Alexandria. Nor should they forget that, 
wherever they see one of those great churches which are 
the glory of European capitals, a similar holocaust is pre 
paring. Every day, in France and England, we hear of vast 
sums devoted, and in England, at least, rarely except 
under the guidance of commonplace and inartistic hands, 
to the restoration of Cathedrals. At this moment, the 

* What makes the matter worse at Oxford is that, within a stone's 
throw of the Bodleian, stands the Radcliffe Library : a building nearly 
fireproof, and capable of containing all the unique treasures of the 
Bodleian. It contains actually a scientific collection and a reading-room, 
both which might and ought to be elsewhere. Whether apathy or jealousy 
be at the bottom of this really criminal absurdity (often pointed out at 
Oxford), neither will, of course, have yielded to the claims of sense and 
duty, before the Bodleian manuscripts have been shrivelled to the con- 
dition of the Cottonian. 



2l6 ESSAYS ON ART 

Chapter of St. Paul's is appealing for aid to decorate Wren's 
masterwork. The Abbey has received lately several gifts 
from private liberality. We would suggest, with all respect, 
that a truer liberality and a wiser prudence would have 
dispensed for a time with the glass of Munich and the 
mosaics of M. de Triqueti ordered for St. Paul's, and with 
the pulpit of Messrs. Scott and Philip in the Abbey, till 
the structures themselves, by the substitution of metal for 
wood in the roof and dome, should have been put into some 
decent state of security. The intention of these decorations, 
however small the confidence we may have in their effect, 
is at least good ; but surely the first step of the promoters 
should be their safety. At any rate we venture to press 
this, before the restoration of the Chapter House, upon 
the Board of Works and the Chapter. It is a case- of what, 
in the old French Assembly, used to be proclaimed as 
Urgency. 

And now the reader may put the subject to sleep, — till 
he hears of the next great fire. 



WILLIAM BEHNES 



What is Fame, and how shall we weigh its substance, or 
satisfy ourselves of its being 1 We think of it as of some- 
thing definite and recognizable. We imagine that a man 
may work for Fame, as he might for wealth — fail perhaps, and 
die bankrupt of glory, or succeed, live on it in competence, 
and leave it as an inheritance to his kindred or his country^ 
Is Fame, indeed, this substantial entity, or rather is it a 
little dust which the wind raises and disperses again, why 
or how or whither we know not? Here, w^hilst all our 
journals have justly raised their memorial to our lamented 
Thackeray, and made his epitaph /?/MV^ cura, we have the 
death of one of the best English working sculptors, if not 
the best (for Flaxman was essentially a designer), during the 
first half of the century, noticed in a few papers without 
even a record of the day when he departed (January 3, 
1864), as if the incident were already too far gone and too 
trivial to deserve commemoration. '* We regret to hear of 
the death of William Behnes the sculptor. His eyes were 
closed, we are sorry to add, in the Middlesex Hospital." So 
writes one of the journals. They tell a story to the visitors 
of a church in Lucca, that on a gridiron which hangs up in 
the nave a bundle of flax was, in old times, lighted when 
Popes or Emperors came by, as a symbol of human glory, 



2l8 ESSAYS ON ART 

and burned before their eyes with a cry of " Sic transits 
We see such a symbol, and hear such a cry, in the obituary 
of WilHam Behnes. 

" The best judges, however," the writer adds, after saying 
that his genius did not obtain a fair trial, " thought very 
highly of his work. He possessed natural talent sufficient to 
have raised him to one of the highest places in his noble 
calling." Whilst it will presently be pointed out that Behnes 
may claim a very honourable position in that forlorn hope 
of English art to which he was devoted, we are not disposed 
to agree unreservedly in the above estimate. If he did not 
obtain one of the highest places, the fact cannot be ade- 
quately accounted for by urging that his genius was not ap- 
preciated. Sculpture has indeed been hitherto, in comparison 
with painting, so little studied or understood by the mass of 
English spectators and patrons, that, in the most important 
sense, it may be said that no modern sculptor of ability has 
had a fair trial. For a fair trial can only be obtained if the 
man's contemporaries are in some degree his equals in taste, 
and are educated enough to comprehend his art. But this de- 
ficiency presses upon all our sculptors alike. Had St. Paul's, 
for instance, been miraculously filled with master-works, in 
place of such monuments as those lately placed there to 
the Napiers, to Lord Lyons, to Mr. Hallam, or to Lord 
Melbourne, the masterworks would still, at the present day, 
have been in a language '* not understanded of the people." 
The simple fact that, beyond a slight sketch in one or two 
biographical series, we have no Life of Flaxman, is a suffi- 
cient proof of the popular indifference. But, in the com- 
moner meaning of the term, Behnes could not be said to 
want a fair trial. For more than twenty years (roughly, we 
might say between 1820 and 1840), he was, we beheve, in 
large practice ; and during his life several important public 



WILLIAM BEHNES 219 

works were entrusted to him. Irregularities in his private 
career barred his admission to the Royal Academy; although 
it is well known that the rule so sternly enforced against 
Behnes has not been applied with undeviating rigour in all 
subsequent instances. That these irregularities held Behnes 
back from doing all that might have been expected from his 
great natural and acquired gifts, there is no doubt. But such 
errors pointed, as they almost invariably point, to an unequal 
balance of his nature — to something incomplete or jarring. 
And besides a certain want of earnestness and, if we may 
use the phrase, of faith in his own art, proved by his private 
life, we must allow that he did not possess that rarest and 
highest quahty in the rarest and highest of the fine arts — 
poetical inventiveness as a sculptor. 

Behnes, however, had much which almost compensated 
for the gift that was lacking. A delicate feeling for the 
beauty of childhood, united with modelling of exquisite truth 
and a great power (when he was willing to exert it) in the 
rendering of texture and of surface, raised to real poetry 
such a figure as the " Child and Dove," which shone out 
almost alone in its excellence amongst the ornamental 
figures in the great English Picture Gallery of the Inter- 
national Exhibition. Lovers of art often paused before that 
little statue; it stood there like a graceful thing of life 
amongst the cold and distorted marbles around it. Portrait- 
figures of Mr. Hope's and Lord Munster's children exhibit 
similar quahties. It will be seen that the poetry of such 
works is of the graceful, but not of the deeply penetrating, 
still less of the sublime or highly imaginative order. Behnes's 
style in marble might be characterized as picturesque. Now, 
when it is correct to characterize one art in the terms proper 
to another, it may be suspected that, however great the 
merit of the work in other ways, it does not reach the highest 



220 ESSAYS ON ART 

place. Thus the praise which we sometimes see ignorant 
writers give to woodcuts, that " they are like etchings or 
engravings on copper," betrays that the art in question has, 
so far, taken a false direction.* The merit of a woodcut is 
simply that it should be like a design cut in wood. The 
merit of sculpture is that it should, above all things, be 
sculpturesque. The undue prominence of this picturesque 
element in certain works by Behnes was probably due to his 
own early training. As a youth he had practised drawing 
with such assiduity and success that a series which he 
executed from Raphael's Vatican frescoes drew forth the 
most emphatic praise from so good a judge of this branch of 
the art as Benjamin West. The same result appears to have 
followed which may be noted in the case of Michel Angelo 
or Ghiberti. The sculptor, to the end of his life, treated his 
own art rather with picturesqueness than with severity. The 
draperies, for example, in Behnes*s grand portrait-figures are, 
to use the painter's phrase, rather too much " cut up " into 
brief lines. They have not the flow and continuity that we 
observe even in the common fourth-rate antiques ; for, how- 
ever small the positive merit of the work, rarely, if ever, do 
we find specific rules of art ignored by any Greek artist. 

The criticism which takes as its motto nil msi bo7iwn is 
simply valueless. We have, therefore, endeavoured fairly to 
set forth the limitations of Behnes' s genius. It remains to 
point out the striking excellences which counterbalanced 
these limitations. His fine feeling for grace — nourished, it 
may be, and developed, as it was with Flaxman, by constant 
study with the pencil — enabled Behnes to preserve with rare 
success that leading exigency of sculpture '* in the round," a 
good bounding outline. Thus, whilst the conception of the 

* The landscapes engraved from Birket Foster, and the New Testa- 
ment lately published by Messrs. Longman, are examples. 



WILLIAM BEHNES 221 

work, with the details, might be partly governed by pictorial 
ideas, the whole preserved the character proper to sculpture. 
The figures already quoted are examples. But the most 
important of Behnes's works in this direction was probably 
a mezzo-relievo, with figures about half life size, illustrating 
Shakspeare's Seven Ages of Man. It would not be pos- 
sible without a woodcut to convey to readers an idea of the 
ingenuity and the beauty which, as a whole, characterize this 
design ; and it is another proof of our national inapprecia- 
tion of sculpture that Behnes should never have found a 
patron disposed to order the execution of his model. Fur- 
ther, in a really thorough mastery of form, and in a pene- 
trative appreciation of character, he possessed two of the 
powers most, obviously requisite for his art, although, in the 
present position of English sculpture, powers rarely dis- 
played. Behnes's portrait-busts and figures are hence his 
best works. Busts of Edward Stanley, Bishop of Norwich, 
of Lord Lyndhurst, Follett, D'Orsay, and the Queen whilst 
Princess Victoria, are amongst the most felicitous. A head 
in the Academy Exhibition of 1863 has been already no- 
ticed as beyond comparison the finest bust in marble there 
exhibited. It was placed near a huge bust of the Prince of 
Wales by Mr. Marshall Wood, and we well remember how 
marked was the contrast between it and Behnes's modest 
and admirably-wrought likeness. Mr. Butler was, indeed, 
Mr. Woolner not exhibiting, the only sculptor whose marble- 
work could stand in competition with Mr. Behnes's in the 
vitality impressed upon the stone, and in that look of like- 
ness which, when once caught, is irresistible, even to specta- 
tors who do not know the artist's original. 

Busts are, however, rarely accessible works, and those 
who are interested in Behnes may therefore be directed to 
one or two easily-found examples. Amongst these we do 



2 22 ESSAYS ON ART 

not include his Peel or his Havelock. Produced, the latter 
in particular, at a time when (in addition to private causes) 
the artist's zeal for his art had sunk before the sight of the 
successful jobbing and charlatanerie to which London owes 
so many recent disfigurements, he hardly rose above the level 
of Noble or Theed, although the bust just noticed proves 
that the old fire still burned vividly within him. A beautiful 
specimen of the artist's better days will be found in his 
monument to Dr. Bell, within the Abbey, on the right hand 
immediately on turning from Poet's Corner westwards. It 
presents a relief of boys standing by their master. Some 
details are conventional, but we know no other similar work 
within the building of equal grace, naivete, and naturalness. 
It should be compared with the tame relief ^on Chantrey's 
Herries monument, a little further on to the left. The Fol- 
lett of the Abbey (north transept) is also by Behnes. Here 
the drapery is wanting in expressiveness, but the head is 
full of life and sweetness, and the whole figure has a look of 
genuine and well-understood art, if, again, we compare it with 
the inanimate treatment of Horner's features by Behnes's 
fashionable contemporary Chantrey, or Gibson's tasteless 
and unresembling Peel in a toga — that warning against 
pseudo-classical art. Yet the ** Follett," in turn, wants poetry 
and mastery when contrasted with the magnificent Mansfield 
of Flaxman, beyond rivalry the finest modern group in our 
central mausoleum. In St. Paul's — and there, even more 
than in the Abbey, conspicuous by its ability amongst con- 
temporary monuments — is the fine statue of Dr. Babington, 
the model of which will have given to attentive visitors of 
the International Exhibition some idea of Behnes's power. 
And, if the original be compared with the mass of figures 
around it in St. Paul's, we are convinced that no one will be 
at a loss to perceive why so much modern, sculpture, what- 



WILLIAM BEHNES 223 

ever the reputation of the sculptors, must be frankly pro- 
nounced unsatisfactory. The drapery, though not carried 
far in realization, is beautifully and, on the whole, truthfully 
treated ; the attitude is eminently characteristic of a great 
scientific lecturer, whilst the details are faithfully suggestive 
of his aim and method. We do not know any other like- 
ness of Dr. Babington ; but the head has that impressive 
air of truth above spoken of, and the modelling (although 
much has here been lost by unskilful carving) is at once 
grand and delicate. We would especially draw attention to 
the quivering and mobile quality of the lips, as one of the 
most difficult points that sculpture has to seize. The 
statue of Colonel Jones (we believe in Greenwich Hospital 
Chapel) is equally successful in its rendering of energetic 
action. 

We commonly speak of the chisel of Nollekens or Flax- 
man ; but the phrase, in England, has been long little 
more than a metaphor in the case of most popular sculp- 
tors. Very few, we believe, since the system of manufac- 
turing for effect was established by Chantrey, have been 
thorough masters in finishing the marble. Some well-kno\vn 
artists hardly even attempt it. No first-rate sculpture is, 
however, to be had without. It was the touch of Phidias 
which gave the true and consummate expression of the design 
of Phidias. We must regret that Behnes did not, in this re- 
spect, rise above the level of his contemporaries, especially 
since his natural feeling for surface was so refined that he 
might otherwise have given his works not less superiority in 
their rendering than in their grace and truth of conception. 
It must be confessed that a finished sculptor might scarcely 
care to expend the vast labour of pure chiselling (by which 
alone a truthful surface can be reached) for exhibition 
before a public which was in ecstasies before the waxen 



2 24 ESSAYS ON ART 

gloss of the " Greek Slave," the china-tinting of the *' Venus," 
or the tricky dexterities of the " Reading Girl." But the 
true artist would be superior to such discouragement, and, 
working his marble up to the highest point, would rest 
secure in the knowledge that it is such work only that com- 
mands the homage of future centuries, when the vaunted 
performances of the drawing-room pet and the merchant's 
prote^ have been long judged on their merits, and forgotten. 

To try to fix Behnes's position in English sculpture, 
except in a rough suggestive way, would be here impossible. 
But it may perhaps be said that, taking 1840 as the close 
of his most successful efforts, his were the best series of 
busts which the English school had produced up to that 
period. NoUekens, indeed, gave us a few which, for spirit 
and skill, though not, perhaps, for largeness of style, rank 
with the best of Behnes. But Nollekens, like Roubiliac, 
is hardly to be reckoned altogether English. Banks, Flax- 
man, and Robert Wyatt belonged to the poetical province 
of the art ; and we know of no other portrait-sculptors who, 
as a whole, can compete with Behnes before his old age, 
when the high qualities of his art were taken up and carried, 
in some respects, to a greater excellence by his favourite 
pupil, Mr. Thomas Woolner. Behnes is not so successful 
in full-length work, from causes already indicated ; although 
in this very difficult style it must be owned that we have 
little to show superior to his serious efforts. And in the 
less frequent attempts to which he confined his practice of 
the ideal or inventive side of the art, he has left an 
example how far, in the absence of direct creative and 
poetical faculty, the instinct for grace and the mastery over 
form may carry sculpture. 

A few words must be added on the influence of this 
distinguished artist upon the English school. Those who 



WILLIAM BEHNES 225 

knew him speak strongly as to the openness with which 
he gave instruction to others, and describe his studio as the 
last in which the old system of frank tuition was prac- 
tised. There must have been certainly an unusual power of 
attraction in the master who, undecorated by the Academy 
and unglorified by fashionable prestige, could collect around 
him almost all the younger men whose works do credit 
to English sculpture, and can stand the test of foreign com- 
petition. Watson and Gatley are the most salient excep- 
tions we can call to mind in a list containing Carew, Lough, 
Burlowe, Weekes, Timbrell, Burnard, Edwards, Davis, the 
Foleys, Butler, and Woolner. Some of the^e men died 
young, and there are of course, amongst the rest, very 
marked degrees of merit. It will easily, however, be recog- 
nized by connoisseurs that a general character of soundness 
or proficiency in art belongs to Behnes's pupils, and marks 
them off from other names which, to the detriment of 
English art at home and of out reputation in Europe, are 
sometimes put prominently forward. But in these Essays 
sufficient indication has been given to readers who may 
care for the writer's judgment, as to which are the " good 
men and true " in English sculpture, and which deserve no 
further trial. That the line thus drawn would put on the 
wrong side a large number of highly-patronized practitioners 
must be frankly avowed. But if it be truly, as it is impar- 
tially, drawn, such a delimitation is a necessary precondition 
of improvement. Slovenliness, bad modelling, voracious 
charlatanerie, " shams " and " windbags " of all kinds, must 
be got rid of before sculpture can start fair. Whether, how- 
ever, these attempts at criticism meet with assent or not, one 
thing may be confidently stated : — This art admits of no 
*' middle way -, " except upon really good work, money 
spent is money wasted. 

Q 



THORVALDSEN'S LIFE 

A BIOGRAPHY like that of the sculptor Thorvaldsen, lately 
translated from the Danish of Herr Thiele, reopens the 
often-debated question as to what the world may fairly 
expect to learn on the lives of men who have been dis- 
tinguished, not by deeds, but by works of imagination. In 
case of politicians or warriors, the details of what they did 
are clearly essential to judging their career. In case of 
artists, or men of creative genius, much may be urged 
in defence of that course for which Mr. Tennyson, in 
some powerful lines, has quoted Shakespeare's epitaph as 
his authority. " Their lives are their works : let the man 
be." The world, however, is not willing to accept this 
silence on its greatest men. It has a just conviction 
that the acts and thoughts of the artist correspond to the 
quality of his productions. If then, we are to have lives of 
poets, painters, or philosophers, we submit that there is 
no honest course open but to tell the truth about them. 
Should this disclosure diminish the reverence or affection 
with which we regard their works, it is an inevitable loss 
for which the satisfaction of biographical curiosity must be 
taken as the compensation. It has indeed been sometimes 
argued, that the biographer of a great man commits a 
sacrilege if he unveils the errors of the departed. Not to 
dwell on the fact that our decision on his greatness depends, 



THORVALDSENS LIFE 227 

or should depend, on how the man lived, if the proposition 
be nakedly stated, we think none but fools or knaves would 
support it. It simply is, that the biographer shall tell us 
only what makes in favour of his hero. He is great and 
good; ergo^ his life was great and good'; ergo^ all that was 
mean and base in his life is to be reverently concealed. 
If not a hero, he is to be made one ! We scorn this argu- 
ment in a circle, and maintain that the world has but one 
choice in the matter : either no biography, or a true one. 

Assuming the book now before us to be of the latter 
class, a more unsatisfactory piece of work we have seldom 
met with. Brief as the record is, it consists in the main of 
anecdotes without spirit and facts without interest, of details 
of commissions given to the artist, or of the triumphal 
journeys which he performed across Europe. We do not 
suppose that this is the fault of either author or translator ; 
for the man, as he is painted with a naivete almost rising to 
humour by Herr Thiele, exhibits at every turn a mean, 
money-loving, and licentious character. He is represented 
as unfaithful to his mistresses, and, we may add, enviously 
hostile to his professional rivals; whilst throughout the 
volume, from the first page to the last, not one solitary trace 
of intellect or feeling for art is recorded about him. There 
is really nothing in him out of which a true artist could grow. 
For all this, we repeat, neither Herr Thiele nor Mr. Barnard 
is responsible. Of such materials does this " Son of God," 
as an Italian poetess called him, appear to have been made. 
But the reader may with more justice complain that, beyond 
a few vague words here and there, he can find no attempt 
to characterize Thorvaldsen's genius or place in sculpture, 
and only a bare description of a few of his works, from 
which some of the greatest celebrity are well-nigh omitted. 
We may confess at once that we have loMradmiftid: Tiior- 

^ ((university) 



2 28 ESSAYS ON ART 

valdsen the sculptor little more than we are now able to 
admire Thorvaldsen the man ; but it seems to us rather 
hard that he should have met with this treatment at the 
hand of an idolizing biographer. 

Thorvaldsen was born in 1770, the son of a ship's figure- 
head carver, whose skill may be judged from the fact that 
his best efforts to hew out a hon's head invariably ended in 
a poodle's. Addicted to what, in Hamlet's time, was the 
national vice of drinking, he gave his son scarcely any 
education, except in the technical portion of his art — a cir- 
cumstance which must be remembered in our estimate of 
his works. The young Thorvaldsen was simply sent to the 
Art School of Copenhagen, where he gradually worked his 
way from the sketching to the modelling-class, and from 
the "small" to the "great" gold medal in 1793; in 1796 
obtaining a three-years' travelling studentship, on the 
strength of which he sailed for Rome. A few essays in 
modelling are noticed during this long period, but they 
only employed a portion of his time, as he also painted por- 
traits (of what quality we are not informed), and made look- 
ing-glass frames. We further learn that he was gloomy in 
temper, " could not understand how a grown-up person can 
laugh," and was fond of music, smoking, drink, and pet 
dogs, '^who occasionally won a share in his immortality." 
This elevated lot, whatever it may be, seems to have been 
best deserved by Thorvaldsen's prime favourite Priinong^ 
who had the notable trick of smelling out a creditor in the 
streets, and biting his legs — by way, we suppose, of a 
" refresher." 

Reaching Rome in 1797, his first friend was the learned 
antiquarian Zoega, who probably fixed him in that direction 
towards the pseudo-antique in sculpture which he rarely 
quitted, and then only with infelicitous results. The sculptor 



THORVAI.DSEN S LIFE 229 

hired the studio where Flaxman had lived in high-spirited 
poverty. Of Thorvaldsen's own studies in Rome we are 
told nothing ; but we learn instead how he speedily forgot 
his vows to a fair Margarethe whom he had left in Den- 
mark, and fell in love with Zoega's housemaid. Marriage, 
in the good old times of Italy, was a convenient screen for 
such an " unfortunate connexion." The maid married ac- 
cordingly, but the husband, by bad luck, proving refractory, 
was ungallant enough to resent the great Dane's continued 
attentions, and soon left Anna Maria on his hands. The 
history is henceforth silent as to the unworthy heccajo^ who, 
we presume, forfeited his "share in Thorvaldsen's immor- 
tality;" but we are often indulged with glimpses of the 
quondam housemaid, and hear much more than enough of 
her anger when Thorvaldsen deserted her for a new charmer. 
Years after these mistresses have disappeared from view, 
how Thorvaldsen gained and threw away the affections of a 
Scotch lady of high birth, in order to pursue another licen- 
tious amour — how nobly she endured a sorrow which she 
never forgot, and forgave his cold and callous baseness as 
only such a woman could — all this is detailed with a blunt 
indifference to the feelings of the living which an English 
editor, we think, would have done better to modify. 

Not more satisfactory is Thorvaldsen's attitude toward 
his contemporaries. Compare the disparaging remarks on 
Canova reported in this volume with the warm support 
which he received from that truly generous-hearted sculptor. 
A young artist from the North, named Kessels, excited 
Thorvaldsen's jealousy, and he is reported so to have con- 
trived that the unlucky rival never obtained any success, 
and died in utter neglect. But the " Discobolos " which 
Kessels left, and which was exhibited in England in 1862, 
was much superior to the works of his depreciator. We 



230 ESSAYS ON ART 

give this anecdote on the authority of the late eminent 
English sculptor, Gatley, who lived in Rome : where Thor- 
valdsen, it may be added, left a personal reputation exactly 
answering to that conveyed in this biography. 

Herr Thiele — who has, it must be allowed, a hard task 
of it with his odious hero — labours with more zeal than 
success to disprove the belief that Thorvaldsen was mean 
and miserly about money. It is unfortunate for the bio- 
grapher's theory that no sooner did Thorvaldsen begin to 
succeed at Rome than we find him sanctioning the removal 
of his father to an asylum " for aged and decayed people," 
whence the old man addressed his son in a letter pathetic 
enough to move a statue, but which seems to have produced 
no effect whatever on the successful and illustrious sculptor. 
The excuses given for this piece of shabbiness are simply 
puerile. But, to leave the man, and turn to the artist, we are 
in justice bound to add that the subsequent feats of Thorvald- 
sen are recorded ingenuously enough. How he cunningly 
substituted a figure of Aesculapius for one of Truth (which 
he found himself unable to design), (p. 81); how he managed 
to " do " the Danish Government with a duplicate when 
they fancied it was an original (p. 109) ; how he broke his 
word (which the biographer calmly surmises he never meant 
to keep) to the Crown Prince (p. 90) ; how he bundled a 
sick child out of doors because the coward thought she had 
the cholera (p. 185) — all these anecdotes, which are in 
perfect artistic keeping with the rest of the man's character, 
Herr Thiele recounts with an impassive naivete which will 
divert the wicked, and stagger the devoutest hero-wor- 
shipper in Great Britain. 

From the side of Art, we cannot pretend to regret that 
these disclosures have been made. There is a stretch of 
stoical virtue in the argument above noticed, imposing 



THORVALDSENS LIFE 23 1 

silence as to the poet's or painter's life, which we are unable 
to follow, even when the artist's creation, like the child de- 
scribed by Wordsworth, ** to itself is all-sufficient" When 
the works, however, are of a lower order, — nay, as in Thor- 
valdsen's case, open to the question whether they have not 
been altogether misesteemed on narrow but explicable 
reasons, it is perfectly legitimate to enquire whether the 
inferiority which we see in the sculptures is not supported 
by the inferiority which may be naturally suspected in the 
sculptor. An artist's heart and head are reflected in his 
works — we should rather say, are his works — ^just as much 
as a poet's. So far as he is an imitator, his works repeat 
his education ; so far as he is an artist, they reproduce his 
nature. What sort of art, then, shall we obtain from such a 
character and training as Thorvaldsen's ? Exactly what 
that character and training would naturally generate in the 
circumstances of European civilization sixty years since. 
Utterly uncultivated when he reached Rome at twenty- 
seven, and with a mind — at least according to the evidence 
of his biography — ennobled by no high thought, capable of 
no vivid insight, but keenly alive to the value of money and 
of good society, he instinctively turned the very consi- 
derable faculty for modelling which he possessed, and the 
elaborate training in technicalities which had been his only 
education, to the service of the pseudo-antique school, 
which was at that time the leading idea of the patronizing 
classes. On the fallacy of putting on this Graeco-Roman 
disguise, and endeavouring to galvanize the Pantheon of an 
extinct world, we shall not here enlarge. Even the genius 
of Flaxman — the most inventive, the most graceful, and the 
most tender among the sculptors of modern Europe, a 
scholar, a gentleman, and a Christian — was unequal to the 
hopeless task. How, then, should such a man as Herr 



232 ESSAYS ON ART 

Thiele's Thorvaldsen succeed ? He did not even bring to his 
attempt veneration for the ancient art ; for he grumbled at 
the honourable work of restoring the marbles of Aegina as 
"a thankless task" (p. 92). He did not bring beHef, for, when 
accepting a commission for a Scripture series, he treated his 
scepticism in Christianity as no hindrance, answering his 
wiser friends with " Neither do I believe in the gods of the 
Greeks, and yet for all that I can represent them " (p. 140). 
In diametrical opposition to the " connoisseurs who hailed 
him as the regenerator of the long-lost antique world " — as 
Mr. Barnard expresses it — we hold that a calm examination 
of Thorvaldsen's once celebrated designs, and a comparison 
between them and the real antique, will produce simply the 
impression that what he has left is a dead, second-hand 
series of imitations. There can be no reasonable doubt, 
from what we now read of the artist, that, for whatever 
antique thought he reproduced, he was indebted to the 
e;ccellent Teutonic scholars who then formed a colony in 
Rome. The execution only is Thorvaldsen's. How, then, 
are they executed % Here and there, as in the " Ganymede," 
or the " Mercury," he has grasped a really new-looking and 
graceful motive. But take his " Venus," his " Graces," his 
relief of the Muses, or those from the I Had, with many 
more, and we find one character unmistakably stamped 
upon them. They want freshness. They are Lempriere at 
second-hand. Turn from the huge volume of engravings 
after Thorvaldsen even to the Pompeian frescoes — turn to 
any collection of ancient gems — and we feel at once the 
gulf which separates the living and the dead, while we are 
surprized that the modern imitator could not avail himself 
more skilfully of such inexhaustible materials. It may be 
added, that the pose of the figures is generally heavy and 
awkward, and the draperies without evidence of study from 



THORVALDSENS LIFE 233 

Nature. As for the greater Hellenic sculpture, such as we 
see it in our Museum, a comparison between him and his 
originals would be like one between Milton and Robert 
Montgomery. Yet this is the sculptor whom Prince Louis of 
Bavaria addressed as the inheritor of the art of Phidias : — 

Phidias hohe Kunst ist Dir verliehen ! 

The preceding criticisms have been founded on ac- 
quaintance with engravings and with works which are not 
generally accessible. We will now take some more familiar 
examples. Three of Thorvaldsen's most celebrated statues 
were conspicuously placed in the International Exhibition 
of 1862. Another is at Cambridge, in the College Library 
of Trinity, and has been well engraved in the " Traveller's 
Edition " of Lord Byron. Thorvaldsen, it must be remarked, 
in common with many inferior artists of his class, was almost 
unskilled in touching the marble, and may hence be pre- 
sumed (for on this, as on all other details of his practice, 
the Life is almost silent) to have relied in the main upon 
the unsound carvers in whom Italy is fertile. Hence, part 
of the defects perceptible in the portrait-statue exhibited at 
South Kensington may be, perhaps, attributed to the in- 
competence of his assistant. It was slovenly in execution 
(like his monument to Raphael in the Pantheon), almost to 
rudeness ; but the general design was also unsatisfactory, 
being deficient in style and dignity ; whilst a portrait of 
Thorvaldsen, also exhibited, enabled one to see that the 
likeness was poor and unlifelike. The " Jason " was a 
better work. It might, indeed, have been the figure of any 
Greek warrior, and the drapery was conventional ; in move- 
ment, however, and in the modelling of the forms, it was 
probably the best on the whole, as it was the first, of the 
sculptor's " regenerations " of the antique. . Yet even here 



234 ESSAYS ON ART 

he had been unable to avoid the absurdity of representing a 
warrior going to battle with nothing but a helmet to cover 
his nakedness ! The " Mercury " — which in rendering of 
form, and in a finished, though mechanical execution, was 
popularly ranked highest in the Exhibition — failed precisely 
at the point which always parts genius from commonplace. 
Mercury is drawing the dagger which is to slay the monster 
Argus. His own life depends on his being able to do this 
at once silently and with lightning speed. Every one will 
see that to do this the weapon must be grasped with the 
utmost strength. But Thorvaldsen has put the hand that 
draws the dagger into a curve of graceful languor ; there is 
no force or wrench, only stealthiness, in the wrist. This 
shows that he failed to conceive his subject in its central 
point — an unerring test of a second-rate ability, w^hich can 
combine but cannot create. It is noticed in the " Life," 
that Byron was dissatisfied with Thorvaldsen's bust. This 
will not surprise those who have seen the life-size statue in 
Trinity Library. The face and air are those of a senti- 
mental shepherd-boy, and as remote as possible from the 
fiery force and passionate irregularity of the great poet, 
familiar to us through so many portraits. The features are 
tame and chill ; the dress conventional ; it is a sort of im- 
personation of an " Hour of Idleness," though Byron, even 
as a school-boy, could never have looked so weak. Even 
the pretty bas-relief below, symbolizing the Pilgrim, is a 
Hteral reproduction of a similarly-intended design which 
occurs on one of the Imperial denarii ! This second-hand 
invention is almost too general in Thorvaldsen's works to 
deserve comment : it is, however, an unerring evidence of 
the commonplace artist. 

We have already noticed the spirit in which Thorvaldsen 
undertook a large series of Christian subjects for a church 



THORVALDSENS LIFE 235 

in Copenhagen. Where he has repeated in rehef the 
designs of Itahan painters, the effect is pleasing ; Thorvald- 
sen's skill in modelling having saved him from the un- 
sculpturesque blunders into which the school of our modern 
Gothic architectural sculptors perpetually fall. In the rest 
we can rarely find grace or character. One or two groups in 
the pediment representing the " Preaching of St. John the 
Baptist" are pleasing, though the composition lacks unity, 
and would be taken at first sight for a series of accidentally 
juxtaposed figures. Thorvaldsen, in this sphere, had not 
the antique to imitate, and betrays poverty of invention and 
absence of imaginative insight at every turn. The Evan- 
gelists, each of them flying upon his symbolical creature, 
have the awkward look which such an arrangement can 
hardly escape. The Apostles are pompous inanities ; the 
Redeemer's figure is meagre. — Of Christian sentiment there 
is what might be expected from the artist's creed and 
practice. 

Thorvaldsen's life has been now unveiled by an ill-advised 
idolator, and the sketch above drawn from these (we pre- 
sume) authentic memorials is not open to question. But 
we have no doubt that the estimate given here of his genius 
as a sculptor will seem heretical to readers trained in the 
Roman traditions of forty years ago. Such traditions do 
not accept the trial of a reference to truth and nature, but 
repose securely on the ground of authority or of the ideal, 
where they are impregnable to the attacks of the sceptic. 
It may, however, be well to remind those who, in regard to 
this latest of the celebrated pseudo-antique revivalists, 
still retain the classical creed, of the singularly uniform 
fate which has attended those reputations in art which 
have rested on the verdict of Roman dilettantism or of 
fashionable connoisseurship. Without overpassing the last 



236 ESSAYS ON ART 

century, Battoni, Raphael Mengs, Canova, Turnerelli, and 
David, are names that, in 1865, represent little more than 
collapsed or inexplicable celebrities. Sculpture has been 
peculiarly fertile in this charlatan glory, in the tinsel crowns 
of a so-called " European reputation." And Thorvaldsen, 
as many of our readers will be aware,) is not the only 
instance in which plausible manners and adroitness in 
conciliating the goodnatured members of high society have 
made the fortune of a worthless man and an indifferent 
artist. 



THE FARNESE ANTIQUES 

IN THE BRITISH MUSEUM 

We doubt whether there be any article of the purchaseable 
kind to which it is more difficult to affix any measure of 
price than to specimens of ancient sculpture. So rarely do 
they now occur for sale, so limited and yet so powerful are 
the competitors, and, above all, so singularly artificial is the 
value which they hold, that Mr. Mill himself, although we 
know of no one more likely to give good reasons for rating 
them high, might be puzzled to assign an estimate. The 
fancy of the buyer, and the fear of the owner to lose all by 
asking too much, have been probably the main elements in 
those bargains which, more often during the eighteenth cen- 
tury than the nineteenth, were concluded between the Italian 
owner and the English nobleman ; and it would be as diffi- 
cult as idle to try to decide whether the treasures of Wilton 
or Ince Blundell, Lansdowne House or Woburn, were ac- 
quired too dearly. At that time, it must be remembered, 
although the taste of men of wealth was, in proportion to 
their numbers, much more refined, especially in regard to 
sculpture, than it is now, yet some great elements which 
may assist us in judging ancient art did not exist. Our 
appreciation of Greek and Roman work has been quickened 
by the modem study of mediaeval, especially of early Italian 
sculpture. Much more, however, has it been aided by the 
discovery, or the importation into Western Europe, of actual 



238 ESSAYS ON ART 

productions of the best Hellenic age. The far closer and 
more accurate knowledge of the mind and the history of 
Greece herself which is open to us all is another advantage. 
Scholarship — and it is no contemptible portion of its func- 
tions — here enters into taste. Taste, indeed, rests primarily 
and essentially upon sheer knowledge. In the case of 
sculpture, this will of course be knowledge of the human 
form, and of the possibilities and properties of bronze and 
marble. Hence it is not impossible to comprehend Phidias 
or Polykleitus without appreciating the Iliad or the Afitigone. 
But it is unquestionable that, sufficient elementary know, 
ledge being present, the ancient poetry will be the best 
interpreter of the ancient art. In the three points here 
noticed we have a decided position of superiority over even 
the best informed and most sensitive judges of the last 
century. And we may be hence enabled to assign a more 
accurate value to the " antique," both in its merit as art 
and its importance as a relic of antiquity. Hence, also, 
though this is a far lesser matter, we may make some 
approach to a rational valuation of such a collection as 
that just added to the Museum. The rarity of the articles 
and the purchasing-power of the buyers remain as two of 
the factors in the price. We have to ask if the importance 
of the Farnese figures, either as works of high art, or as 
illustrating the history of sculpture, justifies the congratu- 
lations which one or two journals have ventured to offer 
the country on obtaining them for 4,000/. 

There is a short but careful notice of our new acquisitions 
in the elaborate guide-book to Rome, prepared, we believe, 
under the auspices of the historian Niebuhr. It is stated 
by Professor Gerhard, to whom this portion of the book is 
due, that the Farnese collection came from the Thermae of 
Caracalla. Gerhard's list enumerates nine statues and some 



THE FARNESE ANTIQUES 239 

fragments. We are sorry to find that two of the items — a 
large sarcophagus with Bacchic representations on the four 
sides, in high reHef, and **the fragment of a reHef, repre- 
senting an Amazon fight, in a beautiful Greek style " — do 
not appear among our acquisitions. The Museum is very 
poor in specimens of the Roman sarcophagi, which are 
among the most characteristic of their works ; and the 
"beautiful Greek style," if we may trust Gerhard on the 
point, would have given the collection an attraction which 
it now wants. If the taste of modern Italy were more 
intelligent and informed than it is, we should have been 
inclined to suspect that the best thing in the gallery, in 
point of art, had been retained. To pass on, however, to 
those which the exertions of Mr. Storey have procured 
for us. Three or four belong to the mythological sphere 
of ancient sculpture. A group " defaced by recent reno- 
vation " (" entire renewal " might, perhaps, be the truer 
interpretation) is conjectured to represent Hermes and 
Hers^. Another group, a satyr holding an infant in a 
fawn-skin, and raising his left arm with a long staff above 
his head (the left arm, with the staff, being modern, and 
other portions mended), although tolerably effective as a 
piece of ornamentalism, stands low as a work of art. The 
forms are here unpleasantly exaggerated. We seem to 
see the well-known rule by which the artists of Greece 
modelled the figure, in accordance with what religious and 
poetic feeling assigned as the character of the deity repre- 
sented, caricatured by some unskilful Roman hand, whose 
anatomical knowledge was unable to give propriety to the 
elongated limbs of the satyr. The child is even more rude ; 
one might call it " primitive," if the overloaded ornaments 
which support the figures did not betray a late and taste- 
less era. 



240 ' ESSAYS ON ART 

This group may lead to a conjecture which, on several 
accounts, we should think rational — namely, that, in fur- 
nishing his vast and hastily-constructed baths, Caracalla 
would not compliment them with sculpture of a fine quality, 
but may more naturally have had recourse to what one 
might call the " New Road " of Rome, to supply the marble 
population of the Thermae. Such groups would probably 
consist of copies, more or less tolerable, from popular ori- 
ginals, with here and there the portrait of the Emperor or 
other celebrities of the day. The collection before us, at 
any rate, supports such a theory. A finely-posed figure of 
Apollo has the air of reproducing the motive, if not the 
exact type, furnished by some skilful hand in the days — 
long since passed at the date of Caracalla — when sculpture 
was sculpture. So much of this figure is, however, supposi- 
titious, that it is difficult to do more than point out these 
general characteristics. " The left leg and both arms are 
new," says Gerhard. They are, indeed, obviously in the 
wretched style of Italian statue-restorers, and to these the 
appearance both of the marble and of the work compels 
us to add the head. If not modern, it is so smooth, ill- 
modelled, and weak in expression, that we conclude the 
restorer's hand has ruined it. Were it worth while, for the 
sake of the torso, which exhibits remains of great beauty, 
to attempt a second restoration, the position of the left arm 
should be corrected. 

A figure which (after bearing the name of Antinous at the 
time when it was not known how small a portion of antique 
sculpture was due to Roman inspiration, and then of Mele- 
ager), was finally identified by Visconti with Hermes, 
appears to be regarded by the authorities of the Museum 
as the gem of their collection. We cannot, indeed, find 
adequate reason for connecting it with the famous names 



THE FARNESE ANTIQUES 24! 

of Greece ; but the uncommon grace, ease, and dignity of 
the attitude afford fair warrant that we have here a repro- 
duction of some famous original. The numerous repeti- 
tions of this figure (one in the Belvedere Gallery of the 
Vatican, and one at Lansdowne House, are the most cele- 
brated) serve to confirm this conjecture. Our specimen, 
although unfortunately damaged in transit, is well preserved, 
if compared with the usual lot of the antique. People read 
in a statue, as in a landscape, not only what they find, but 
what they bring there ; and thus, if we add that the quality 
which our " Hermes Enagonios " appears most to present 
is grace balanced by strength, we would not wish to define 
this as the only characteristic that it embodies. When it has 
been duly adjusted on its pedestal, the view on entering the 
gallery which it closes will display, even to uneducated 
spectators, something of what Mr. M. Arnold terms the 
" noble style." Seen thus, the figure seems worthy of one 
of those shadowy, though immortal, names which we would 
gladly bestow on it. It has something of Polykleitus or 
Praxiteles. A nearer approach brings the statue within 
that class to which we have ventured to assign the Farnese 
collection. It is only a copy — a copy, we must think, 
removed at an immense distance from its great Hellenic 
original. The surfaces are empty, and feebly modelled ; 
the treatment of the knees and bust will serve as proofs. 
Hence also the outlines — witness the curve where the right 
thigh joins the trunk — are poor and incorrect. The original 
portion of the drapery, though bold and intelligent when 
compared with the wretched modern-Italian addition below 
the left hand, is rude ; the eyes are irregular ; the hair 
wants flow and softness. Compare the " Hermes " in 
these points with the " Aphrodite " and the '* Discobolos " 
at the entrance, and the difference between a good repeti- 

R 



2 42 ESSAYS ON ART 

tion and an inferior one will be felt at once. We cannot 
fancy this to be much nearer the original than a shilling 
coloured lithograph is to Raphael's "San Sisto." And yet 
(as with such a lithograph) so marvellous is Hellenic art 
that even its copy at tenth-hand arrests and delights us. 

Although rather rudely worked, and more rudely treated 
by its Roman owners, the " Athlete '' binding his brows has 
a much grander style about it than the " Hermes." This 
little figure appears to be executed in a Greek marble, and 
may be conjecturally accepted as a specimen of the monu- 
ments dedicated to successful agonistae ; although we can- 
not find enough in it to justify the assumption of those 
critics who confidently regard it as a repetition of the 
famous " Diadumenos " by Polykleitus. The representation 
of an athlete crowning himself was likely to be an extremely 
common motive amongst Greek sculptors. A similar type 
occurs on a monument in the Vatican dedicated to the 
memory of a person who happened to bear the name 
Diadumenos, and one or two more minor repetitions are 
said to exist. It is thus just possible that we have here 
a copy of the statue above named. Yet the fact that our 
acquisition is probably of rather early Hellenic work adds 
little to the presumption ; and, without rating Pliny's autho- 
rity high, it is doubtful whether his words (speaking of Poly- 
kleitus) £)iadumenum fecit molliter puerum can be applicable 
to this Diadumenos. Looking, further, to the quality of art 
displayed, although we have here a vigorous and well-pro- 
portioned figure, yet the comparison with such works as the 
" Discobolos," or the " PugiHst" of the Louvre, or the au- 
thentic originals of the Elgin room, will leave no place for 
it amongst the representative specimens of Hellenic- art. It 
is also on an unfortunate scale ; less than common life, yet 
too large for a statuette. Altogether, if we try to make an 



THE FARNESE ANTIQUES 243 

impartial estimate of the evidence for this particular work, 
remembering also how long and widely Hellenic sculpture 
was practised, the number of schools almost unknown to 
us, and the very few verified specimens that exist, it will be 
safest to allow that the " Diadumenos " must rest on its own 
merits, without adding to it the halo of a doubtful ascrip- 
tion. 

The mutilated figure of a man (also apparently in Greek 
marble) is in a grander manner than anything we have 
hitherto noticed. We can find no identification of the 
person represented. It is a great pity that the barbarous 
method in which the Imperial Administration ransacked 
Greece for statues, and then put them up at random in the 
spirit of upholsterers fitting up a house with old oak carving, 
should have rendered it impossible to assign even a conjec- 
tural name to many of the portrait works discovered at 
Rome. 

While thus indicating our opinion that the Farnese col- 
lection contains little that adds to the Museum from the 
side of art, there is sufficient value in it to render the pur- 
chase justifiable. Indeed, the immeasurable gulf between 
these Imperial collectanea and the marbles of the Parthenon 
is in itself an excellent lesson of discrimination in art, 
and, incidentally, of the way in which it may be affected 
by the political situation of a country. But on this allur 
ing subject we cannot dwell here. One group, however, 
remains for notice, which may seem to point the moral 
of the difference between art as practised by freemen, and 
art as turned-out by Imperial order. This represents a 
male figure on horseback, and if we may consider the 
head to have been correctly restored as that of Caligula 
we have probably here one of the statues which com 
memorated the Imperial family within the walls of the 

R 2 



244 ESSAYS ON ART 

Thermae. The comparative freshness of the work, which 
is excellently preserved, is just what we might expect on 
this conjecture. It has all the look of an 'Emperor done 
to order by one of the favourite court-sculptors who, no 
doubt, filled Rome with their jobs after a fashion with 
which England is not altogether unacquainted. The head 
has, indeed, rather more character than our own contem- 
poraries generally give ; but the modelling of the naked 
parts, the forms of the animal, and the tame unmean- 
ing drapery, all betray the hand of the hasty manufacturer. 
No Greek artist would have selected so unmanageable a 
material as marble for a group of this nature. Compare the 
head and neck of this horse, and the seat of the rider, 
whose knees show little sign of grip or tension, with the 
Athenian cavaliers in the Parthenon relief This group 
is a great curiosity in its way ; it illustrates how, in all 
ages, similar causes produce similar consequences. Like 
the coarse figure of Mausolus, from the Halicarnassian 
monument (of which the cast, by a truly British ingenuity 
of arrangement, may be seen planted in the Elgin room, 
where it looks like a ploughman at court, whilst the original, 
despite all the Curator's efforts, is stowed away out of view), 
it warns us that good art is never to be had to order ; that 
true genius will not labour except for those who take the 
pains to understand, and have the heart to enjoy, it ; that 
commonplace work will always be the portion of unculti- 
vated patronage. But why are warnings, like examples, 
never appreciated until they are unavailing ? 



ON THE POSITION OF SCULPTURE IN ENGLAND 245 



ON THE POSITION OF SCULPTURE IN 
ENGLAND 

A CENTURY and a half ago, the relations between what was 
called the polite world and literature were of a peculiar and 
intimate kind. It was the age of patrons. Their influence 
was predominant. Vergil could hardly be held a recognized 
poet till he had been admitted beyond the ante-room of 
Maecenas. Horace was not Horace before he had dined 
with his Grace. Our Caesar indeed, it is well known, was 
hardly equal to his part. William III neither turned to 
English literature for pleasure nor for instruction. Anne 
was engrossed with " Sarah " and Mrs. Masham. George I 
was a German, and, in those days, to be a German was not 
to admit any Teutonic speech within the province of litera- 
ture. His son, most characteristic of the race, "damned 
boetry and bainting;" but our nobility made it a point to 
compensate for Dutch or Hanoverian apathy. Virtue, ac- 
cording to Pope, fled from kings to dwell with St. John. 
Swift himself paid homage to Harley. Holland House was 
sung by Tickell in verses to which the taste and fine feeling 
of Macaulay gave a second and a truer meaning. Even 
Johnson waited amongst the valets of Chesterfield, and 
spoke of the patronage which he could not obtain, as 
of that love which Tityrus sought to no purpose from 

Amaryllis : — 

Nunc scio, quid sit Amor ! 

Patronage, for good and for evil, was then the inevitable 



246 ESSAYS ON ART 

support of literature, and, if it could not exactly make 
genius, yet might make or unmake fame and riches at its 
pleasure. 

It would be very curious if we could trace the real results 
of a system which, in literature, has totally passed away. 
Some light, indeed, is thrown upon it by the lives of our 
writers in that age, and some by the panegyrics which so 
often amaze us in their writings ; and one would say that 
the system must have been unsound at the core which could 
lead Dryden to compare James II to Hercules. But the 
difficulty is, that whilst the spurious genius and charlatan 
ability which my lord was flattered into supporting have 
died completely out, the real excellence which he occasion- 
ally patronized recommends itself to us, not through what 
society then thought of it, but by its own intrinsic merit ; 
nor can we now guess how far it would have forced its way 
without that peculiar mode of support. The patron and 
the protege have changed places. Bolingbroke takes his 
lustre from Pope. The Beggar's Opera preserves the 
memory of Queensberry. Walpole is comparatively ob- 
scure because he had no "holy poet" to commemorate him. 
All this, however, in the absence of a history of patronage, 
increases our natural suspicion against the system in general. 
It may, indeed, have been a necessary evil, or at times 
have aided a true genius. Society at that period, though, 
as a whole, probably less cultivated than now, con- 
tained a few men of really refined and original taste. The 
Queen of George II is a rare example of a woman capable 
of patronizing with insight. Yet we cannot doubt that the 
general condemnation of literary patronage is well-founded. 
True ability has rarely made its way thus. Even in the 
most cultivated periods, the patron, distracted by a thou- 
sand conflicting cares of politics and fashion, can seldom 



ON THE POSITION OF SCULPTURE IN ENGLAND 247 

have the faculty of " discerning the spirits." Not only is 
merit overlooked or humiliated, but the favour and popu- 
larity conferred on inferior or worthless men are of particular 
force in depressing the excellent We wish to draw especial 
attention to this aspect of the matter. Life is so constituted 
that men cannot take interest in very many things. The 
time and money spent on bad poetry, for example, are a 
direct loss to good. They are so much subtracted from the 
limited fund available. To take pleasure in, and to bring 
forward, inferior or false merit, is not, as people sometimes 
argue, a proof of catholic or liberal taste. It simply 
shows ignorant or feeble discrimination. Every Bavius of 
fashionable circles fills the place of a Vergil. But this is 
not the whole of the mischief; for Bavius, by the fact that 
his gift in poetry is small, is on that very account able to 
recommend himself much more efficiently than Vergil to 
brilliant patronage. The more elegant and Men places the 
patrons are, the worse will be the evil. For, in the case of 
very elegant and Men places people, their approval is taken 
without examination. The nod of the Marquis is un- 
questioned. The smile of the Countess (and no wonder) 
creates genius in its own right. Only when the evil is done 
does a foolish world allow itself to turn round and break 
its former idols. And the evil reaches its maximum when 
Royalty is the fountain of these honours. We may have to 
show that England is not quite free from hurtful influences 
of this nature. But it is enough to point to Lewis the 
Fourteenth, and his patronage of art and literature, as a 
culminating example. 

It is singular that this ancient system, alien as it may 
seem to^ the public of the nineteenth century, is still in 
force amongst us in relation to one of the Fine Arts. 
Sculpture in England remains mainly an affair, not of 



248 ESSAYS ON ART 

publicly recognized ability, but of polite patronage. The 
sculptor is commonly discovered and brought out, not by 
the public voice, like the painter or musician, but by the 
patron's. The reason for this may be partly found in 
the same cause which, under good Queen Anne, produced 
the patronage of letters. Knowledge of sculpture now, as 
of poetry or scholarship then, is not a thing generally 
diffused. A few people — set aside for the purpose by a 
kind of natural selection on the score of connoisseurship and 
rank, or money and commercial position, or, occasionally, 
of simple interest in the subject — have long practically made 
the position of sculptors in England. Where real knowledge 
has happened to co-exist with the proper status of the patron 
of plastic art, the results have of course been serviceable. 
Such a patron, fifty years ago, was Lord Egremont to Flax- 
man. But he stood almost alone in appreciating the greatest 
genius who, since the days of Michael Angelo, has given 
himself to sculpture. Perhaps we ought to add Mr. Rogers ; 
but it is curious that, popular as the poet was in society, and 
well known as was his exquisiteness of taste, his opinion 
was almost totally disregarded. For one patron who appre- 
ciated the grace and severity, the marvellous invention and 
pathos of Flaxman, there were fifty who lauded to the skies 
Signor Turnerelli and Sir Francis Chantrey with epithets 
which no one now cares to read, or which the critic reads, 
if he must, with smiles of astonishment. For it is now 
generally known that the latter fashionable artist, although 
born undoubtedly with a certain faculty for his art, never 
carried his faculty out either by professional study or by 
care in finishing his works. His best heads, lost already 
amongst the hundreds which came as from a vast manu. 
factory in Pimlico, are hardly more than clever suggestions. 
When we look closely into them, or compare them with 



ON THE POSITION OF SCULPTURE IN ENGLAND 249 

careful contemporary likenesses, we find them filled also 
with inaccuracies of the kind which betrays want of taste 
as well as deficiency in knowledge. The singular additions 
which his busts made to the forehead of Scott and the chin 
of Wordsworth have been often noticed. His full-length 
figures set that example of heaviness and want of life which 
has remained as an inheritance to our own days. The rea- 
son is simple. Although enjoying a thousand fashionable 
patrons, Chan trey could neither mould the human form nor 
carve his marble. There are no signs that he had ever 
learned these primary requisites for sculpture. He had so 
little cultivation that he has represented Sir Walter Scott in 
a tartan plaid. He had so little power in dealing with what 
he saw that he has dressed Mr. Canning, as Mr. Gibson has 
more recently dressed Sir Robert Peel, in a kind of fancy 
toga. Chantrey's name, owing to the real gift, however in- 
complete, which he possessed, and to the excellent places 
which patronage procured for his works, is not yet forgotten. 
But where is Signer TurnerelU'? Echo answers, that his 
name is where the names of his present fashionable repre- 
sentatives will finally be — buried in the bosoms of his fair 
and noble patrons. A "consummation," no doubt, "de- 
voutly to be wished." 

Perhaps the reader expects that an exposure of some 
recent abuses of patronage in sculpture is to follow. If we 
do not intend to prove our point thus, it is certainly not for 
want of authentic material. Nor, inasmuch as the patrons 
of this unlucky art make no secret of what, so far as inten- 
tion goes, is conduct often not to their discredit, would there 
be any reason against such publicity. We would, however, 
rather hope to lead these liberally-minded persons to a 
more satisfactory employment of their patronage, by simply 
pointing out its want of success with those to v/hom all art 



250 ESSAYS ON ART 

refers for final judgment — the public at large. We would 
remind them that patronage, ill-directed, secures what 
are less monuments than laughing-stocks for the patron's 
liberality. If we see public statues arising in every direc- 
tion, each, as it is successively displayed, a new popular 
failure, we may conclude at once, with tolerable cer- 
tainty, that we have here misplaced private patronage at 
work. People in general^do not commission what will not 
please them. It is clear that those who selected the 
artist must have been in fault. There is " something rot- 
ten " in the system ; and the arguments against " patron- 
age " in literature are equally valid against "patronage" 
in art. 

That we have been drawing no fancy picture, but that the 
mass of the sculpture lately produced by favourite proteges 
is below the right level, requires no elaborate proof. 
Undoubtedly, English art, in this province, is not in that 
hopeless state which might be inferred from the long list of 
public failures. But the true artists (as we have already in- 
dicated) are precisely those who have not the talent which 
recommends men to a patron. They are thinking of art, 
not thinking how to trade on the traditions of the Court, to 
gain favour in smart circles, or to commend themselves to 
convivial men of business. Hence our following remarks 
must not be understood to imply a general criticism on 
English sculpture ; indeed, not one of the sculptors is a Royal 
Academician. We confine ourselves to such works as (in 
London) the Sir Charles Napier of Trafalgar Square, with 
its companion figures in St. Paul's (all by Mr. G. Adams), to 
the Guards' Memorial by Mr. John Bell, to the figure of 
Mr. Hallam in St. PauFs by Mr. Theed, to the Sir F. 
Buxton in the Abbey by Mr. Thrupp, to the Exhibition 
Memorial in the Horticultural Gardens by Mr. Durham, the 



ON THE POSITION OF SCULPTURE IN ENGLAND 25 1 

Prince of Wales by Mr. Marshall Wood, the Melbourne 
monument in St. PauFs, and the Coeur de Lion at West- 
minster, by Baron Marochetti. Let us briefly add the Wel- 
lingtons at Norwich and at Glasgow (Messrs. G. Adams and 
Marochetti), the Ingram at Boston and Philosophers at 
Oxford (Mr. Munro), the Wilson at Edinburgh (Mr. Steill), 
with several bronzes at Manchester (a city full of diverting 
commentaries on the taste of the patronizing British man of 
business), by Messrs. Theed and Noble. A walk through 
St. Paul's, or through our chief country towns, will supply 
many more of like quality. Now, without attempting here 
the unenviable task of dissecting in detail the works men- 
tioned — and we might treble our list — we would simply ask 
whether, from the day that these and similar figures by the 
same artists have been set up, they have given pleasure to 
any human creature beyond the small patron circle ? Have 
they not, individually, whenever free public criticism has 
had room, been condemned as feeble, or ugly, or lifeless 1 
Have they not, year after year, received a general and un- 
contradicted censure from the House of Commons? We 
do not, of course, include all the above figures in the same 
degree of censure. Their " imitation of humanity " is more 
or less imperfect. Yet we are convinced that we have not 
exaggerated the impression they have produced. Indeed, 
some of the evidence given by artists before the Royal 
Academy Commission would have justified less qualified 
language. What can we infer from this, but that we have 
here results similar to those with which we are familiar 
in literature — the manufacture of an undeserved reputation 
by personal interest — in a word, the encouragement of bad 
art by private patronage 1 

It is true that the curious in advertisements may discover 
certain periodical laudations, probably of all the productions 



252 ESSAYS ON ART 

enumerated. This is another of the unfortunate results of 
the patronage system. Sculpture, being an art reserved, as 
it were, for the initiated, has barely come yet within the 
field of free-thinking and free-speaking criticism. It is so 
much a matter of personal favour that it seems a reflection 
on the distinguished patron to criticize above one's breath. 
Procul este^ profani! — it is in bad taste that their rude voices 
should presume to question that " European reputation " 
which exists, and alas ! exists only, within the precincts of 
an English drawing-room. We have no doubt that those 
well-meaning patrons who think, for example, Mr. Theed's 
figure of a Royal Duchess in her full dress charming, or who 
speak of Marochetti's Melbourne Monument in St. Paul's as 
ravissant, will consider our remarks highly " provincial." * 

* Questions of price do not necessarily fall within the range of criticism, 
unless where works are executed for and paid by the nation. Holding, 
therefore, as we do, with French judges on the quality of M. Maro- 
chetti's art, we must add our protest to those which have been frequently 
made in England on the vast sums which he has received for certain 
public works. We do not here allude to the fact that for the often- 
noticed Coeur-de-Lion, or the Lord Clyde, with which London is (rather 
unnecessarily) threatened, M. Marochetti's price has very largely 
exceeded that paid for Mr. Foley's famous Lord Hardinge, a statue 
which is the reverse of M. Marochetti's work in knowledge, spirit, and 
finish. If friends like to give these prices, or to send the hat round 
the world for subscriptions, we leave it cheerfully to them. But public 
work stands on a different footing, and we shall exercise in regard to it 
the well-established right of the British tax-payer. It is only seven or 
eight years since that not less than £15,000 were handed over to the 
Franco-Italian sculptor in question, for what was called the Scutari 
Monument. Few people will remember this, for the display of the 
model at Sydenham called forth such unfavourable comments, that it 
was rapidly withdrawn. It consisted of four sentimental-looking 
womeii with long wings placed at the corners of a large block of stone, 
and as these angels were exactly alike, we can perfectly believe what 
we have been told on professional authority, that from £3,000 to 
£4,000 would have been considered an ample price by an English 



ON THE POSITION OF SCULPTURE IN ENGLAND 253 

We can only plead, that to give full-dress in marble requires 
the violation of every natural law of the material, as well as 
of every long-recognized law of style, and that the French 
critics, the most accurate and tasteful judges whom we have 
now, have long ago disposed of the Baron's art as puerile 
and slovenly. We are not careful to answer wrathful pa- 
trons and offended artists in this matter, and regard the law 
of compliment and reserve as one great reason why the art 
has fallen to so low a pitch among us. But we are aware 
how useless it is to contend with that species of partisan- 
ship which is developed between sedulous flattery on one 
side and graceful favours on the other. Those who know 

artist. And this year we learn, that for simply casting the Nelson 
Lions modelled by Landseer (within M. Marochetti's studio), another 
exorbitant sum — nearly double the offer made by a respectable English 
company — has been asked and promised. This statement (with which 
an official account of the votes expended upon the monument is in 
accordance), has been publicly made, and has met with no denial ; — a 
silence to which we are, of course, at liberty to assign our own 
explanation. The Baron (to whose art we could allow no exemption 
on the irrelevant ground that he is by birth an Italian, even if he were 
not naturalized by reception into associateship with the Academy), once 
advertized himself in the Times as capable of undertaking national 
monuments on a large scale. We think he should have said, on a large 
scale of prices. We repeat, that a man may freely set what value he 
likes on his own work. That is his affair. But, having done this, by- 
standers are free to criticize it. And if they discover that the price is 
not only out of all proportion to the artistic value of the article, but 
equally in excess of what is asked by professional brethren, — and all 
this to be charged on the national purse — it is not surprizing that .the 
phrases in which English artists express themselves are too plainspoken 
and too true for the hearing of" ears polite. " We will, however, add one 
general remark which may be admissible. There is no sign which, from 
the age of Greek art downwards, has more uniformly and clearly marked 
the good artist, as distinguished from the bad, than the absence of 
voracity in the price set upon his works. The "artistic nature " has 
weaknesses of its own, but meanness in money matters is not one of them. 



254 ESSAYS ON ART 

the secrets of ateliers describe more than one fashionable 
sculptor as the head of a firm of anonymous modellers and 
carvers who do the work, whilst the professed artist is 
running about, carrying his plaster for moulds to the houses 
of great people just dead, and making court for commis- 
sions. Not in vain is such courtship made. A patron, like a 
theologian, is a man who has taken up his position. " His 
siege is written." Arguing with him is like arguing with the 
country clergymen who refused Professor Jowett his wages. 
However it may arise, the fact remains, that each public 
eyesore of the description noticed, as it appears, is de- 
scribed by some paragraph which bears the same relation 
to ordinary criticism that Mr. Moses' advertisements do to 
ordinary poetry. Specimens of praise will be readily found in 
contemporary journalism which tempt one, in another sense 
than that commonly expressed by the phrase, to describe 
them as virtually the laiides viri laudati!^' 

Patronage, when its fruits are the disfigurement of private 
houses, does, indeed, a certain general injury to art by 

* Let us add two of the latest examples we have seen. 

* ' The Committee entrusted the execution of the statue to Mr. Matthew 
Noble, of London. The earl is represented in his uniform of lord- 
lieutenant .... and his peer's robe thrown loosely across the shoulders 
supplies the needed drapery (!) The posture represents, &c. ; the like- 
ness is most faithful, and the expression caught by Mr. Noble is very 
happy." — Daily News, Oct. 24, 1865. 

"Yesterday, Mr. Adams, sculptor, had the honour to submit his bust 

of for Her Majesty's inspection. The Queen was much pleased 

with the work, and thought it an excellent likeness. It really is, per- 
haps, as good a resemblance, in inanimate clay, .... as could be pro- 
duced. It may be remembered that Mr. Adams was successful in his post- 
humous bust of the late Duke of Wellington." — Times, Nov. 29, 1865. 

The News and the Ti77ies give regular criticisms on English art, and 
we are sure that their managers cannot be aware of the mischief done to 
its interests by the admission of such paragraphs. 



ON THE POSITION OF SCULPTURE IN ENGLAND 255 

consuming what we have called the limited available fund. 
But when " our circle," as we once heard it called by a fair 
enthusiast, extends its operations without, and fixes its par- 
tisan judgment before the public eye in the form of some 
large obstruction in our streets, or some further disfigure- 
ment of the Abbey, the influence of society on sculpture 
becomes a serious nuisance. The most enchanting oi petit s- 
mattres, the most genial after-dinner man for joke and 
anecdote, may be — indeed, the experience of the world 
shows, generally will be — remote indeed from the posses- 
sion of such abilities as alone entitle an artist to public 
\ places. Free^^de in sculpture, as in the other arts, will do 
I away at last with these evils. But, meanwhile, it is the 
duty, though decidedly not the pleasure, of independent 
criticism to expose them. It is lamentable, in its way, that 
the memory of the Prince Consort should be weighed down 
by such figures as those which have, hitherto at least, been 
modelled by Messrs. Theed and Marochetti. Even the 
natural wish to look with favour on the results of Court 
patronage has not been sufficient to prevent some explo- 
sions of vexation, or even more significant silence, amongst 
contemporary critics, in regard to their performances. 
We cannot but believe that the distinguished person thus 
commemorated would have raised his protest against this 
additional " terror of death," if he had anticipated it. He 
is gone, and in days when his loss is peculiarly felt. But 
it is hence the more fitting that the public voice should 
endeavour to shield from defacement even the outward 
image which he has left upon our memories. 



256 ESSAYS ON ART 



II 



One great reason for British failure in sculpture we have 
traced to ignorance in private patronage. A second lies, of 
course, in the imperfect training of the sculptors, and the 
number of men, incompetent from want of natural gift and 
of acquired knowledge, who take advantage of this public 
ignorance to pass themselves off as artists. Enough has 
been said for the present on these obstacles. The first will 
be removed or diminished when those who order a bust or 
a group learn to train their eyes by reference to nature and 
to existing standards in art, and give commissions, not from 
private kindness or on the strength of fashion and puffery, 
but with a sincere wish to obtain money's worth for their 
money. Taste in sculpture, as in all the arts, although it 
does not grow of itself, but requires some little trouble to 
, learn, is simple matter of information, and of information 
C the learning of which differs from many forms of study in 
^ its pleasantness. If any readers are induced by this criticism 
(^ » to open their eyes and judge for themselves, they will be 
surprized to find how quickly the dormant power of distin- 
guishing good from bad awakens in the mind. Fifty years 
ago this process began in case of painting , and now, 
although some ill-founded popularities exist, yet even these 
are kept up to a level much above what passes muster in 
sculpture. A similar elevation of taste will be soon met 
by a parallel advance among our sculptors ; and fifty years 
hence the tawdriness of M., the commonplace of N., and 
the inanity of X. Y.Z. (it would not be hard to make up the 
four-and-twenty), will provoke the smile of wonder with 
which we now look at the Fames, Victories, Britannias, 
and the like in St. Paul's or the Abbey. And when it is 



ON THE POSITION OF SCULPTURE IN ENGLAND 257 

then asked, as we sometimes ask about the said Fames, 
Victories, and Britannias, how such ugly encumbrances came 
to find their way into the squares and streets and churches 
of the land, a reason will be given, on which we propose 
now to say a few plain words. 

Partly from the expense of sculpture, partly from its 
inherent commemorative quality, it frequently happens that 
works in this art are not prepared by the artist according to 
his own invention, but commissioned from him by a com- 
bined order. Hence arises a second form of patronage, 
which has been often justly complained of by our better 
artists, and which is, indeed, open to every kind of abuse 
that ignorance, personal vanity, and jobbing can perpe- 
trate to the injury of art. This mode is the Committee. 
Why a committee works so badly may be easily explained. 
All " patronage " of art ends in an act of choice. When a 
single person is the patron, mistaken as he is apt to be in 
case of an art which is little studied or criticized, he will, 
however, often act from some pleasure or interest in the 
subject. But that selecting body which we call a committee 
is not one chosen for its power of selection, but from con- 
nection with the person or deed to be commemorated. It 
is a thousand chances to one if a single member of it has 
the very slightest knowledge of an art like sculpture. 
They are gallant sailors or officers, country gentlemen or 
merchants, politicians or scientific men. The tone in which 
the whole thing is commonly spoken of proves that such 
bodies do not graSp the point in hand. When a statue 
has been decided on, and a prospect of funds is in view, 
ninety-nine people out of k hundred appear to be quite 
satisfied. Anything will do between a Phidias and a figure- 
head. The friend is sufficiently honoured by the fact. A 
bronze in the Square ! a statue in the Abbey! the job 

s 



258 ESSAYS ON ART 

seems finished — when unluckily, in both senses of the word, 
it has only just begun. 

It is curious to watch the details of the process by which 
a hero mounts his pedestal in England. The very wish to 
set him there rises sometimes from the desire, not to com- 
memorate merit, but to find a job for some distinguished 
and voracious artist of "European reputation.'* This is 
the worst case. Generally, however, there is a genuine im- 
pulse to put up a statue, combined with a vague idea of what 
a statue ought to be like, and who is fit to do it. We pause 
for a moment here. Everything really turns on this, for 
what honour is it to be perpetuated in grim ugliness, like 
poor Napier in Trafalgar Square, or Wellington at Hyde 
Park and at Glasgow? How is the heroism of Balaclava 
figured by the three grenadiers standing at ease in Waterloo 
Place, or the losses of the Crimea by four similar women 
in feathers, backing to the four corners of a pedestal at 
Scutari 1 It is the same with poetry. Who would care to 
be sung of by a Blackmore or a Montgomery, or to 

Live in Settle's pages one day more ? 

Only a master can give the "monument which outlasts 
bronze " ; if we cannot find him, the honour will be worse 
than worthless. So in the choice of the sculptor. Every 
thing really turns on the fitness, truth, and beauty of the 
monument ; but nobody much minds it on our committee. 

The sculptor, however, must be chosen, and as in England 
the idea is that we have some twenty or more, each and all 
capable of a task which Michel Angelo found almost too 
much for him, the committee feel an embarras des richesses. 
Perhaps they propose a competition, to which no good, 
and few even of the established, artists ever send. But 



ON THE POSITION OF SCULPTURE IN ENGLAND 259 

there are always some ready to compete, or who have not 
yet learned by bitter experience how merit fares in these 
"gambling transactions," as they are properly termed by 
Mr. Burges in his amusing Lectures, In due time the 
models come in, neatly got up by the knowing ones, who 
are perfectly aware that, on the miniature scale, only the 
trained and skilful eye can distinguish chaff from grain, and 
that the average mind is always ready to take a sand- 
papered surface for the fine finish of real art. The com- 
mittee meet, and walk round them, and meet again ; and 
although the competitors are supposed to be as unknown as 
under-graduates writing for a prize-poem, yet it has been 
observed that some one member possesses a happy instinct 
by which he detects his protege amongst the crowd. 
Perhaps a suspicion has sprung up by this time that the 
committee is getting out of its depth. Even the common 
refuge of the indolent, that, " there is no disputing about 
taste,'' loses its virtue when the members reflect on the 
reception which a black bronze generally meets with in 
England from the discerning public. But the models have 
come all around them, like demons called up by an unskil- 
ful magician, and somehow they must decide. As nobody 
has any genuine grounds to go on, every one is thankful 
for the help of a decided bias, and — the result is, let us 
say, the Nelson Column. Or we have heard that matters 
occasionally take a more diverting turn, and an artist on the 
committee has been known to descend from that high 
judicial function, enter the ranks with the modellers, and 
secure the monument. And the reader will not need to 
be told what kind of work has been the result of the 
arrangement. 

Things hardly go more happily when the committee 
selects its own artist. There is always the radical diffi- 

s 2 



26o ESSAYS ON ART 

culty — twenty people trying to choose, with no more special 
aptitude for choosing a good sculptor than (let us say) 
for selecting the best treatise on Concomitant Variations. 
Mathematics are matters of knowledge, and sculpture is 
just as much so; but neither knowledge comes without 
proper study. If we have not studied mathematics, we 
generally leave concomitant variations alone ; but the com- 
mittee must choose its sculptor. Then, perhaps, some 
artist, or man of reasoned and real taste, helps it to a choice. 
This is of course the best chance ; for although the general 
degradation of English sculpture has lowered the standard 
terribly, so that people who can be trusted about painting 
blunder sadly about the other art, yet to this intervention 
we owe (it may be safely presumed) the few truly fine 
monumental works which have been produced within the 
century — Flaxman's " Mansfield," Wyatt's " Princess Char- 
lotte," Watson's " Eldon and Stowell," Behnes' "Babing- 
ton," Foley's " Lord Hardinge," " Woolner's " Godley," 
and the like. But generally there is no such intervention 
in favour of merit. The invariable committee-man with a 
friend outside proposes that a select body (one practically 
to be a quorum I ) shall make the choice ; and, too happy to 
be delivered from these " questions of taste," which igno- 
rance naturally fancies have either no solution, or may be 
solved by instinct, the selecting body is named at once. But, 
from the same reasons which generally have collected the 
great committee without the least reference to their osten- 
sible business, the little committee is no better qualified to 
select. The friend, of course, hands over the Job to the excel- 
lent outsider, who has always done something for the Mansion 

House, or the Court, or is a favourite with Lady (you 

know), or is, lastly, the "local man" who gives such agree- 
able dinners, or makes yours go off so brilliantly. We are 



ON THE POSITION OF SCULPTURE IN ENGLAND 261 

drawing no fancy picture, as some readers will know only 
too well ; nor do we mean to blame the well-intending 
committees in question. How should they help it ? They 
have to choose, and they know next to nothing about 
choosing! Indeed, they receive no help from the right 
quarter in their task ; the good artist being invariably and 
notoriously incapable of putting himself forward. It is the 
other kind that practises the arts by which a man se fait 
valoir, and gets laudatory paragraphs in the papers ; he has 
only one art, . . . and that is enough for him ! Were the 
case different, it is bad work that would be the exception. 

But the committee meanwhile proceed. Their serious 
business is beginning. A few friends put down their names 
from a sense of respect. The committee subscribe from a 
sense of duty. The public are invited to aid in setting up 
what, they are invariably informed, good judges have pro- 
nounced an admirable work of art. In extreme cases, what 
the profane speak of as " the screw " is called in. Pressure 
is put upon subordinates — a process to which the sub- 
scription for a military hero, as the advertized lists occa- 
sionally suggest, is tenderly susceptible. Vague intimations 
are held out that defaulters will be exposed. We have even 
known one very bad case, where the hat was sent round to 
all the noblemen and gentlemen whom the sculptor had 
" cultivated," with a solemn appeal to their sense of art. 
The process had a kind of tragic seriousness, but the result 
has been fruitful in broad grins ever since. In another case, 
equally bad, the name of a deceased husband has been bran- 
dished, as it were in terrorem, over the widow. Meanwhile 
the nominee is labouring in private ; subordinates, it is not 
unfrequently rumoured, doing the work of which the head 
of the firm is incapable. At last we reach the closing 
scene in the play. The committee meet ; a speech is made. 



262 ESSAYS ON ART 

in which the speaker will be observed curiously reticent 
on the question of art, the honour being always supposed 
to lie, not in the goodness of the statue, but in the fact 
that it has been set up ; the figure is unveiled, and one 
more masterpiece is added to those which have done so 
much for the adornment of London, Manchester, or Edin- 
burgh. " It is impossible to describe to those who have 
not seen them," says one of the latest and most intelligent 
French writers on England, " how Lord Nelson looks with 
a cable between his legs by way of a tail, or the Duke 
striding over an archway, with his hat and feathers done in 
metal." Nor shall we attempt to describe the more recent 
performances which we owe to the too familiar pseudo- 
sculptors of our time. They are before our paths, and in 
our way, and M. Taine himself has found them too dismal 
for joking. 

But enough of this negative criticism, — always in itself an 
unsatisfactory thing, although necessary as the only prelude 
to improvement. Our moral must be that the committee 
system, as in general it exists, is ^ radically wrong. It 
selects men for one reason, and then requires them to per- 
form functions which have no sort of connection with it. 
We conclude that it should be abandoned, by people of 
sense and modesty. Nor — personal vanity or the wish to 
job apart — is there any reason why the system should be 
adopted. When a scientific question comes before a court, 
the court calls in an expert. A committee, except in the 
rare cases where it contains some one who has made 
sculpture his serious study, should do the same. To advise 
on such matters, as has been more than once suggested, 
should be one function of a Royal Academy. Or, without 
confining the selection to that body (which is decidedly 
not fortunate in all its sculptors), a kind of recognized 



ON THE POSITION OF SCULPTURE IN ENGLAND 263 

tribunal would soon form itself, if memorializers in general 
were alive to the bad results of their proceedings, and 
the absurdity of extemporizing judgments on a technical 
question. Public taste would, meanwhile, advance in regard 
to sculpture, as it has advanced in regard to painting. 
The charlatan and the ignoramus would gradually drop out 
of sight. And if no modem race is likely to equal Athenian 
taste in these matters, we might then at least see England 
brought to the level of France or of Germany. 



SCULPTURE AND PAINTING 

Lovers of art have been long looking with some impatience 
for the four Lions which Sir Edwin Landseer has been 
modelling for the base of the Nelson monument. The 
great reputation of the artist, the novelty of his task, the 
importance of the figures, which will be placed in the most 
conspicuous place of the capital, all render the experiment 
one of unusual interest. That it is also an experiment of 
unusual difficulty might he safely inferred from the some- 
what tedious delay which has occurred since Sir Edwin 
accepted the commission, and has provoked comments in 
the House rather of a nautical than of an aesthetic cha- 
racter. But it is possible that the peculiar nature of these 
difficulties may not be generally known. The interconnec- 
tion of all the fine arts is recognized by every one ; but we 
think that the possibiHty of practising each in turn, with 
the amount of success hitherto realized in this direction, has 
been hence exaggerated. 

Although suggested by the Nelson Lions, it may be 
proper to add that no reference is intended to them in our 
remarks. Great as the difficulties appear to us in this case, 
they are scarcely such as may not yield to united patience 
and genius. We know that Landseer has brought these 
powerful allies to his aid ; and we believe, further, that the 
practice of modelling has been more or less familiar to 
him, as it is said to have been to Correggio, during many 



SCULPTURE AND PAINTING 265 

years of his career as a painter. Thus, whilst desirous to 
avoid an idle flourish of trumpets, we may fairly add that 
we look forward to the final result with that hope which 
the name of the artist warrants. Should our expectations 
be unfulfilled, we shall find, in the laws of art — laws too 
large and powerful for man to contend against in even 
battle — an explanation of anything less than success. 
Meanwhile, if there be any truth in our conception of the 
peculiar and inherent arduousness of the task, even when 
undertaken under the most favourable circumstances, it is 
probable that we may turn to this for the main reason of 
delay, and may find, in the delay itself, so much complained 
of by those who perhaps have not fully put themselves in 
Sir Edwin's place, the best security for the future. 

We do not attach great value to the phrase that Sculpture 
is the noblest of the arts. The expression has probably 
been handed down by some vague tradition from the Roman 
world, and, like the phrase " high art," is too misty to signify- 
more than the prepossession of those who use it. If, how- 
ever, noblest be explained as most difficult, the propriety of 
the word, v/e apprehend, will be less open to question. 
Sculpture, it has often been argued, is the most difficult of 
the arts of design, because, depending as it does on light 
and shade alone, and limited by its materials to a narrow 
range of subjects, it not only drives the sculptor to prefer 
the most difficult class of themes within that range, but 
requires at the same time the greatest skill and refinement 
in representing them. Painting, indeed, finds more than 
half her motives in the human form. But, commanding 
colour, she is able to satisfy the eye with far less accuracy 
in the general delineation of form, and to give the expres- 
sion sought with much less labour. Attitudes in a picture 
are simply unlimited. Their meaning may be elucidated 



266 ESSAYS ON ART 

by subsidiary figures, or by accessories almost without 
number. The sky may give half the significance to the 
hero's features. The brilliancy of her dress may denote 
the heroine. All these aids are wanting to him who works, 
in bronze or marble. If he has not, as may be urged, 
the extra difficulty of colour, this is balanced by the per- 
fect knowledge of human form essential to his success. 
Probably it is easier to model a little than to paint a little, 
at least in oils, where the routine of manual processes is so 
complex. But we are supposing our sculptor to aim at 
excellence. Besides, he must, anyhow, have a Rembrandt- 
like command of light and shade, for these are his colours. 
Indeed, as if his requirements were not already more than 
sufficient for most human powers, he sometimes calls in 
colour itself, and we cannot be surprized if so rash an am- 
bition meets with failure. Without, however, discussing this 
point, it is already clear that the sculptor will have enough 
on his hands. And we must add the further difficulty that 
his materials not only restrict him in the nature, but in the 
variety and composition, of the groups possible in model- 
ling ; whilst, lastly, by requiring an enormous length of time 
in their manipulation, the chance that the first idea and 
first flush of feeling may pass before the work is complete 
is immensely increased. 

Such an art as this may be acknowledged, we think, to be 
the most arduous, and at the same time (for in the Fine Arts 
the words are convertible) the most intellectual. At any 
rate, perfection in it has been certainly not so compara- 
tively common as in painting. And let us here remark, 
before returning to our main subject, on the ludicrous im- 
possibility of effecting anything in sculpture that can in the 
very least deserve the name, by any mere mechanical pro- 
cess, be the means never so ingenious. We would apply 



SCULPTURE AND PAINTING 267 

this criticism to what is named " Photo-Sculpture." Those, 
indeed, who " patronize the invention," as the phrase goes, 
from the petty passion for novelty, deserve no better fate 
than to throw away their cash. We cannot pretend to pity 
them, if the ugly stare of the photograph — ^which it is happily 
hopeless to secure from fading — be perpetuated in the dis- 
torted and lifeless plaster or " Parian " images which the 
Art Union Societies, no doubt, will eagerly disseminate 
amongst their customers. But to those who are accessible 
to higher motives than the lust for cheap art or a novel kind 
of article, we would say that every one who gives his aid to 
such an invention as this does so much to the injury of some 
real artist, and to the increase of the depression under which 
sculpture has so long languished. A true likeness is some- 
thing caught from the mind of one man by the mind of 
another ; and this cannot be done by twenty times twenty 
cameras, all working together. In the nature of things, 
" Photo-Sculpture " is a sham art. And every sham art, as 
English manufacturers are beginning to discover, is the 
death of a genuine art. " These are things," as old Blake 
said of something similar, " that we artists hate." And all 
true lovers of art will hate them likewise. 

Even should it not be allowed that Sculpture is harder 
than Painting — one of those points on which it is probably 
hopeless to expect agreement — it will be confessed that 
those conditions which render sculpture difficult, and di- 
vide it from painting, explain why it must be enormously 
hard to step from the practice of one to that of the other. 
It is true that form and specific character are the study of 
both ; but the study must, in general, be infinitely more 
rigorous that qualifies a man to carve than to paint. This 
is an obstacle which, no doubt, would not exist for a painter 
whose design had the precision which we admire, for instance, 



268 ESSAYS ON ART 

in Ingres or Mulready. But, supposing the knowledge at 
hand, the attitude of mind under which Form has been con- 
templated during a sculptor's whole life differs essentially 
from the painter's. The one has thought of figures, pro- 
bably dressed, at any rate in every attitude and variety of 
motion, grouped in perspective, surrounded and brought 
out by foreground and distance and atmosphere, assisted 
and emphasized by colour. The reader will not require us 
to complete the contrast. Let us draw attention, however, 
to one special point of more technical difference. The 
sculptor has had to 'consider by what elevations and sink- 
ings of surface, by what refinement of curve or brilliancy of 
angle, he can secure effective light and shade within the 
limits of truth to nature. To gain this knowledge, it is not 
too much to say, has been rarely found to require less than 
many years of sedulous practice. Few Englishmen, at least, 
have learned it in tolerable perfection. And we are sure 
that if any such sculptor had been invited, meanwhile, to 
acquire as great a command over colour, he would have 
rejected the proposal as fatal to progress in his own art. 
There is a single statue in the Louvre, ascribed to Agasias 
the Ephesian, which displays anatomical knowledge so great 
that Reynolds is said to have remarked, " To learn that 
alone might consume the labour of a whole life." The 
supposed exceptions to our statement shall be presently 
noticed. But we have not yet exhausted the peculiar per- 
plexities of the subject. Not only is this burden of study 
imperative on the true sculptor, but the manual process of 
employing it must also be conquered. He must acquire the 
exact skill how to impress, first on the clay, and then on the 
stone, the due amount of configuration, the exact balance 
of surface, which shall express form under the conditions of 
light and shadow. So laborious is this, that it is well known 



SCULPTURE AND PAINTING 269 

that many famous sculptors have never mastered it ; whilst 
other men, again, have devoted their lives to execute the 
figures which go down to posterity under the names, perhaps, 
of Behnes or of Flaxman. Let us note, also, that this 
technical difficulty is increased by the diversity in treatment 
required when bronze is substituted for marble. A clay 
model, from the non- transparency of the plaster in which it 
is to be reproduced and preserved for carving, necessitates 
a slight difference in detail of manipulation from the marble ; 
but there is a wider interval between the surface which will 
tell in plaster and that which will have its effective light and 
shade when translated into bronze. Bronze also, as is pro- 
bably better known, admits — and, by admitting, may be said 
to require — a bolder style in attitude and grouping, and a 
more complex system of lines and folds, than stone can 
carry. It is physically impossible to render a horse, for 
example, satisfactorily in stone. But the greater cohesion 
of the metallic particles, especially when iron is called in to 
aid the bronze internally, allows the supports to be much 
smaller and more distant, and permits a far wider displace- 
ment of the centre of gravity in the figure. Bronze, to 
use the proper phrase, allows of a more open or extended 
attitude than marble ; whilst, at the same time, certain tex- 
tures can be more closely imitated in it. Hence arises a 
great temptation to reproduce such features as hair too 
literally, and thus to sacrifice inevitably the prominence of 
the highest elements in sculpture — form and expression. 
A conspicuous example of this wrong bias in art may be 
seen in Baron Marochetti's " Coeur de Lion," which we call 
an essentially vulgar and low-class work, precisely on the 
grounds that call forth the wonder of uncultivated spectators; 
the loose portions of the harness and armour being com- 
pletely realized, the mane and hair next, whilst the forms 



270 ESSAYS ON ART 

are weak and inaccurate, and the features a blank. This is 
a practical anti-climax in art ; it shows, however, that the 
designer (having been educated in France) was not ignorant 
of the properties of bronze. These have been hitherto very- 
little studied in England. Our sculptors could hardly help 
discovering that a horse in metal can stand alone ; but 
beyond this, the equestrian groups of recent times in 
London rarely show a trace that the characteristics of metal 
have been taken advantage of, or even observed ; whilst 
the treatment of our bronze standing figures, from Chantrey 
to Behnes, is all but identical with the style which the fra- 
gility of marble renders necessary. The contemporary life- 
size statue of James II, said to be by the Fleming Gibbon 
(better known by his imitative feats in wood), which is perdu 
behind the Banqueting House in Whitehall, though conven- 
tional in style and already much wasted by the weather, is 
the only marked exception, in serious art, that we can re- 
member ; none of the figures in bronze by Foley or by 
Woolner having been placed in the capital. 

We have entered into some details upon this curious 
subject, because, although we have no novelty whatever 
to claim in setting them forth, yet the common language in 
which sculpture is discussed in England — and the remarks, 
we may add, which the delay in Landseer's Lions has called 
forth — seem to show that even common and obvious points 
about the art are little familiar to the public. Hence, in a 
great degree, that degraded condition of our sculpture which 
every one confesses. There is no truer sentence than that 
of Mr. Ruskin : — " There is but one way for a nation to 
obtain good art — to enjoy it." And to such enjoyment 
there is no enemy so fatal as ignorance. Had these much- 
desired beasts been sooner forthcoming, we should have 
known that they had been " modelled up," at six shillings 



SCULPTURE AND PAINTING 27 1 

a day, by those worthy underlings of the studio who, alas ! 
have more than a lion's share in the works of certain living 
celebrities. There is no limit to the time which, in any cir- 
cumstances, true art may require. We saw the other day, 
exhibited at Mr. Holloway's, of Bedford Street, Covent 
Garden, (who acts, we believe, as agent for the sculptor,' and 
is able to offer his bronzes at a very moderate price,) a small 
bronze lion, the study for which alone (but then it is a 
masterpiece) had taken more than six months' labour, from 
Haehnel, the Saxon animal sculptor — an artist whose work, 
we may add, is highly appreciated by Landseer. But, with- 
out pursuing the subject further, we think we have made it 
clear that for an artist, be he never so skilled in painting, to 
take up serious sculpture, is likely to be a task of no slight 
difficulty. We can give a close illustration from music. A 
thorough knowledge of music, and a natural instinct for it 
perfected by study, are essential to success for every per- 
former. Yet we know that, unless each had practised his 
great contemporary's instrument incessantly from childhood, 
Joachim could no more change places with Mme. Schumann 
than any one in the concert-room could take the place of 
either. We think it must be the same with the sister Muses 
of the pallet and the chisel. 

Degrees, however, of familiarity with the nearest-related 
form of art may exist, and, as we have indicated in case of 
Landseer, may lessen the labour of bridging the chasm. It 
is to the existence of such interchanged practice that we 
may attribute the partial success which three or four artists 
(we question whether more can be named of any distinction) 
have obtained as painters and as sculptors. A few little bas- 
reliefs are assigned to Giotto. Verocchio left some scanty 
specimens in casting and in painting. Raphael's alleged 
"Dolphin and Child," Diirer's cabinet carvings, and the 



272 ESSAYS ON ART 

like, are curiosities rather than examples. Da Vinci's 
equestrian group perished in the model. Of the ancients 
we have no specimens remaining in the more fragile art. In 
fact, man is an animal who lives but few years, has only two 
thumbs, eight fingers, and one head, and is hence fated to 
spoil the beauty of philosophical theories by not completing 
the circle which they trace out for him. When critics rhet- 
orically assert that the greatest men in the art have been 
great both as painters and as sculptors, Buonarroti is the one 
real exception on which they are founding their rule. And, 
astonishing as was his genius, we must yet agree with those 
critics who have argued that in him the profoundest of 
Christian painters was sacrificed — in all but that one mag- 
nificent instance which renders the Sistine Chapel the Par- 
thenon of Christendom — to an attempt to master sculpture. 
Of his figures, how many are unfinished — how few of those 
that he completed are satisfactory ! But this is too large a 
subject to be noticed casually, and we must shelter our- 
selves under the example of Reynolds, when terminating 
his Lectures, if our last words on the difficulty of success 
in these two arts are the lesson (really, though not ostensibly) 
conveyed by "the name of Michel Angelo." 



BARON TRIQUETI'S "M ARMOR 
HOMERICUM" 

It is a curious proof of that indifference to art which for 
more than two centuries appears to have progressively 
marked our countrymen, that appropriate indoor decoration 
of houses or of public buildings should be now almost un- 
known among us. One would have said that a country 
where the damp and dulness of the climate, and the coal- 
smoke of our almost perpetual open fires, oppose terrible 
obstacles to success in rendering external architecture 
seemly, ought to be pre-eminently one in which the inha- 
bitants would develop abundant forms of beautiful orna- 
ment for the interior. So far, however, from this, we find, 
curiously, that the most elaborate and lovely systems of in- 
ternal decoration have been hitherto produced in Southern 
Spain under the Moors, in Southern Italy whilst occupied 
by its Hellenized population, and in Syria even to the 
present day ; whilst no nation, at any rate no civiHzed na- 
tion, presents such a want of invention, so much money 
spent to so little purpose, as the English. Enter a " first- 
class mansion ; '' the walls are invariably covered with bald 
stucco, glistening beneath a fat coating of smooth white lead, 
or disguised by sheets of paper pasted over the plaster. We 
walk over a dust-collecting carpet of moss or flowers beneath 
a sky of melancholy whitewash, as guiltless of meaning or 
beauty as the *^ tabula rasa " of the mind of a metaphy- 

T 



2 74 ESSAYS ON ART 

sician's baby. And very rare is it to find any kind of colour 
ornament on paint, paper, or plaster, beyond machine-made 
figurings of inappropriate or commonplace character, or a 
{qw lines and scrolls of the poorest style from the uphol- 
sterer's pattern-book. 

If by chance the owner or the fitter-up, hearing art and 
academies and taste talked of commonly as matters to 
which deference should be paid, wishes to show himself not 
behind his age, a few stereotyped tiles in the hall — manu- 
factured with that mathematical faultlessness which always 
proves deadness in art, and awkwardly notched into their 
places, never made for the situation as taste demands — or a 
gorgeous ceiling covered with nosegays and ribbons by 
some Italian decorator, is the highest flight. Even in our 
churches and large buildings matters are hardly better. 
Here and there a fresco has been attempted, and in a few 
churches we see tiles used with some sense of art and ap- 
propriateness, or incised patterns figured on the stonework. 
Beyond these spasmodic and tentative endeavours, all is a 
blank in decoration, so far as art is concerned. Oil-paint 
from its glistening, smooth, heavy uniformity of surface, and 
its general house-painter look, can never be redeemed from 
vulgarity, let it be done fresh every season. Paper, besides 
the difficulty of getting any pattern that does not positively 
jar on the eye (a point on which Sir G. Wilkinson has some 
excellent remarks), presents the great inappropriateness of 
being a non-architectural substance. There is a sort of 
discordance in pasting a vegetable film over a true building 
material ; it always reminds us of the biblical hay and 
wood on a stone foundation. The old hangings of stuff or 
leather, and panelling, have almost disappeared. Mean- 
while Moors and Syrians, and we doubt not Japanese and 
Chinese also, ignorant of " Schools of Art," Royal Aca- 



BARON TRIQUETfs " MARMOR HOMERICUM '' 275 

demies, "ideal," "real," and the rest of it, decorate their 
dwellings, if not always with work showing mind, or con- 
formable to European rules of taste, yet with work which 
never fails in beauty of colour, and is often pleasant in 
regard to form. Above all, appropriateness of subject and 
material is never wanting. We wish to draw especial atten- 
tion to this point; appropriateness being the very first 
element essential to all good decorative art, and precisely 
the one which is most often absent in the civilized countries 
of the West. Our vast number of materials is one reason 
which may stand in our way here ; but a much more serious 
obstacle is found in that indifference to beauty in its simple 
forms which modern ways have developed in Europe, and 
the ready acquiescence in shams and pretences of all kinds 
which has hence followed. Everything that our art-deco- 
rators turn out, if we except a few mediaeval attempts which 
can never naturalize themselves in nineteenth-century life, 
has to be approached with suspicion and fear, lest it should 
not be the thing it looks. Nay, we often see an ingenuity 
in employing good materials in a false sense which must 
have been more laborious than using them as nature meant. 
Slate is coloured to look like marble ; stone painted, we 
presume, to look more like stone ; leather mocks wood ; 
paper simulates plaster. The climax is reached when some 
ingenious official (Lord Llanover we believe it was) orders 
all the interior stonework of the Houses of Parliament to 
be smeared and choked with heavy lead paint, or when the 
monolithic pedestal of Mr. Bell's grim Guardsmen at Wa- 
terloo Place is blocked over with frightful lines, that it may 
look as if cheaply constructed of small pieces of granite ! 
What a satire, when we think of it, do these two proceed- 
ings — and we could name a score of such off-hand — form 
on the aesthetic development of Englishmen ! 

T 2 



276 ESSAYS ON ART 

This absence of appropriate architectural decoration for 
indoor places makes it a ground for satisfaction that so 
much attention has been lately called to certain Italian 
attempts to supply the want which we regret. Salviati's 
glass-mosaics are one of these, and we think the more pro- 
mising. M. Triqueti's work is substantially a reproduction 
of that intarsiatura in marble of which occasional examples 
are found abroad, and notably in the Cathedral of Siena. 
The plan there adopted was, at first, to let figures in white 
marble into a ground of gray, defining the internal details of 
the figure by incised lines filled with black. This process 
was, we think, beyond all question the safest and most 
legitimate ; it was exactly that of the Greek vases of the 
best time (where the groups are in red on a black ground), 
and could hardly be elaborated without risk to architectural 
propriety or pictorial effect. The next stage, ascribed to an 
artist named Beccafumi, was to let into the figures pieces of 
an intermediate tint, by way of representing the shadowed 
portions of the object ; the chiaroscuro being further aided 
by a more hberal introduction of dark incised lines. The 
later vases present a kind of parallel to this in the white 
colour which it became usual, about 300 B.C., to lay on by 
way of increased efi'ect. Baron Triqueti, so far as we can 
judge from the rather vague description hung up in the 
London University corridor where his " Marmor Homeri- 
cum" now stands, and from inspection of the work, has 
carried the process of development to a further, but we 
think a lower, because a less severe, stage, by using red 
pigment in the flesh of those portions which he has executed 
after Beccafumi's fashion ; and, in his central scene, by over- 
laying large portions of the marble with coloured cements. 
I'hese are rather heavy in texture, wanting the transparency 
of the crystallized limestone ; and although the description 



BARON TRIQUETI*S " MARMOR HOMERICUM " 277 

referred to speaks of the coloured in- or on-layings as having 
** the same hardness, adherence, and dnrabiHty as the 
marble itself," yet certain portions, where the lines have 
disappeared during the process of fixing the tablet raise a 
doubt on this point. It is always premature to claim per- 
manence for a new application. 

As we are looking at the " Marmor " in the light of de- 
corative capability rather than as a piece of art, we may be 
content with adding that the Baron's designs, like all the 
others we have seen by him, do not rise beyond the orna- 
mental order. Imitations of the antique, either from vases 
or from modern French reproduction, abound in his draperies 
and accessories. The kneeling Priam seems to have been 
" conveyed " bodily from Raphael through Marc Antonio ; 
but the figures generally are poorly drawn in a second- 
hand sort of style, and although they show a considerable 
feeling for grace, yet the feeling has been very imperfectly 
reaHzed. The central group, where Homer is reciting the 
woes of Andromache to a few youths and maids at Delos, 
fails in dramatic power. Homer is a declamatory old man, 
and the hearers, though the women decorously veil their 
grief and the men stand in quiet attention, exhibit no 
further correspondence with the peculiar emotions of the 
moment. The warriors seem to listen only from a sense of 
propriety ; the girls are picturesquely overwhelmed ; it is 
more like the audience of a preacher in modern Italy than 
of a bard in Hellas : how different from Raphael's treatment 
in his " Paul Preaching at Athens ! " There is the same want 
of grasp, the same reliance on narrow Ionic folds, broken 
lines, and little bits of cleverly imitated ornament in the 
subsidiary scenes of the "Marmor;" and some smaller 
attempts in bas-relief introduced at the corners of the 
tablet, by their sentimentalism of style and over-finish in 



278 ESSAYS ON ART 

handling, approach the manner of the Book of Beauty, 
There is something tasteless also in the contrast which 
these reliefs make with the flat surfaces everywhere else 
employed ; the effect resembles the projecting portions 
which one sees in Byzantine church pictures. Even the 
archaeology, upon which so much stress has been laid, is 
not sound ; the Delian temple being in a style (the Doric of 
Ictinus) at least two centuries later than the most convinced 
believers can place the date of Homer. This is like paint- 
ing St. Bernard in a Flamboyant cathedral. But we should 
not have dwelt on these points had M. Triqueti confined 
himself to a less lofty theme. A classical subject does not 
necessarily bring with it a classical style, as a comparison 
of M. Triqueti's ornamental grace with the works of the 
great Flaxman, also preserved in the University, will easily 
demonstrate. 

Returning, however, to the point on which M. Triqueti 
more seriously claims our attention, we should be inclined 
to believe that his peculiar process of mural ornament 
would be found much more available for simple decoration 
than for properly pictorial work. We would have compared 
the development of the Siennese iniarsiatura to that of the 
antique vases, and the many colours and ingenious devices 
for effect which are employed in the "Marmor Homericum " 
bear a real analogy to the polychrome painting and inter- 
mixture of relieved ornament which distinguish the latest 
period of the Hellenic earthenware, known as that of the 
Basilicata. This has always been recognized as ornamental 
art, in contrast with the severe style which preceded it. 
The inference is, it should keep within its limits. Applying 
the same rule to M. Triqueti's invention, it competes at 
once too overtly and too imperfectly with painting to allow 
it to be safely employed on the same class of subjects, 



BARON TRIQUEXrs " MARMOR HOMERICUM " 279 

whilst these qualities mark it out as eminently adapted 
for pleasing architectural decorations. In this direction 
it has a real value. The green and brown cements, the 
pink lines for the flesh, blue and green for the draperies, 
bronzed imitation of metal — all, in short, that makes the 
" Marmor," in our judgment, inadmissible as a picture — 
renders the process full of promise for patterns, emblems, 
or framework for art proper. An ample field of high and 
much needed usefulness is open to it within this sphere. 
But it would be a fatal blunder to push the style beyond 
its natural capabilities. Appropriateness, as we observed 
above, is the first mark of goodness in art. All violations 
of it are punished by a double calamity ; the aim pursued 
is missed, and the beauty which might have been legiti- 
mately obtained is sacrificed. There is no stronger instance 
of this law than the results which have uniformly followed 
the frequent endeavour to stretch an ornamental or decora- 
tive art into an intellectual or representative art. And 
should M. Triqueti be so ill counselled as to attempt this 
at Windsor, we do not see how he can escape adding one 
more to the many recent failures which have gone far to in- 
jure St. George's Chapel. Good intentions have been here 
but poorly seconded by the results hitherto attained. 



THE ALBERT CROSS AND ENGLISH 
MONUMENTAL SCULPTURE 



It is not to be regretted that the decision on the Albert 
Memorial is the result of a year's delay and discussion. The 
course of our public monuments generally runs with an 
ominous smoothness, suggestive of a pre-arranged job, and 
issuing too frequently in a work as far from art as from 
nature. Hastily planned and hastily executed, it is praised 
by the artist's friend in a neat newspaper paragraph, and 
stands henceforth as an eyesore to the passers-by and as 
the butt of aesthetic M.P.s. True art rejects this raw haste. 
The sublime matures itself slowly. The beautiful takes its 
own leisure. Phidias and Michel Angelo produced dunng 
their lifetime not more statues than the " eminent artist " of 
to-day advertizes as on hand together in his studio. But the 
Parthenon was addressed to quick and educated eyes, and 
the legend of the sculptor's imprisonment, whatever its 
historical correctness, shows at least that his works were 
regarded as the common interest of Athenian citizens. 

We should be glad to think, that in the long discussions 
and experiments which have been suggested by the memorial 
to the Prince Consort, we might trace something analogous 
to that old close relation between art and the national feel- 



THE ALBERT CROSS 28 1 

ing, without which the Fine Arts never flourish. Her Ma- 
jesty has taken the pubHc as it were into her confidence ; 
the different schemes have been debated openly ; and in 
full accordance with the well-known principles of the good 
Prince, the popular voice and the popular sympathies have 
been throughout appealed to. It is pleasant to find that 
this course has apparently met with success. Putting aside, 
on different grounds, the schemes for an obelisk, a mono- 
lithic cross, a hall, a group of sculpture, there is a general 
satisfaction in the choice of an architectural cross after a 
pattern which, we believe, is almost if not entirely pecu- 
liar to old England. Our Gothic style at the date of 
Edward I had reached what was probably its highest and 
purest point ; it then marched even with the great architecture 
of Northern France : and the sentiment of the monuments 
dedicated to Queen Eleanor is one which commends itself, 
on the present occasion, with a fitness which needs no 
comment. There has been also a just feeling throughout, 
that in this case we should not pay due honour to the great 
person to be commemorated by any monument which 
combined other objects with its single commemorative 
character. These considerations, with the comfortable 
feeling that a great difficulty has been turned, and an im- 
minent disfigurement of the Park avoided, have united all 
suffrages. 

Whilst, however, we are disposed to join in the general 
verdict, several points remain which appear open to ques- 
tion or which demand careful watching, as the scheme 
advances. The fact that the Prince had entertained the 
wish to see the monolithic construction attempted, with 
the beauty of the form of cross known as that of lona, 
lent much weight to that idea ; but it was pronounced hope- 
less on the score of expense. Considering even the obvious 



282 ESSAYS ON ART 

costliness of a carved tabernacle, 150 feet in height, as now 
proposed — the well-known rule, that, in building, the ex- 
penses increase in a ratio out of all proportion to the height 
— and the difficulty of supplying estimates for a work so 
abnormal as that proposed, we must confess to certain mis- 
givings whether we can, indeed, have so much, and be so 
fine for our money. Even the grant of ^50,000 by the 
House of Commons, in supplement of the ;£6o,ooo sub- 
scribed by the public — and the understanding which seemed 
to prevail that a further sum would be voted if required 
— do not satisfactorily set at rest the question of expense. 
Other considerations, also, not less grave, arise when we 
turn to the question of art. Those who favour the cause 
of the Gothic style in England are grateful to Mr. Gilbert 
Scott for the impulse which, some fifteen or twenty years ago, 
it received from the steadiness with which he pursued it. 
We owe to him many buildings which, compared with the 
common-places of second-rate designers in Palladian, or 
with the imperfect utterances of his own predecessors in the 
Pointed style, deserve credit. But our progress in architec- 
ture has moved lately with accelerated speed ; and it must 
be honestly pointed out that later men, falling on better 
days, and gifted with genuine power to create, have left fairly 
behind the worthy pioneers of what we might call the Peel 
or Melbourne age. The Albert Cross is a monument which 
imperatively requires high faculty for the beautiful. It is 
nothing for use — altogether for honour ; and it hardly less 
requires decided originality in design, that it may not, like 
Mr. Scott's own Martyrs' Memorial at Oxford, at once 
remind us of King Edward's crosses by likeness and by 
unlikeness — by servihty to the ancient idea, and by want 
of the ancient poetry and feeling. 

The more, in truth, we consider the plan adopted, the 



THE ALBERT CROSS 283 

more we shall see that it calls for no common skill. It 
must not only, in its larger lines and masses, show grace 
combined with a certain austerity ; it must also be clothed 
in ornament of exquisite detail, and accented by first-rate 
figure-sculpture of a very peculiar kind. It is probable that 
we have no single living artist capable of succeeding in a 
task which would have severely tried even the mighty 
genius of Giotto. And in this portion of the work Mr. 
Scott's existing productions hold out less encouragement to 
hope for a high triumph of art. His merit as a designer 
lies rather in the whole than in the details. Carefully 
and correctly drawn, the main outlines of his more import- 
ant buildings are sometimes satisfactory. We see that 
he has had excellent originals to follow. But a nearer ap- 
proach reveals that the ornament is cold and unimagina- 
tive : compared with what the higher Gothic demands and 
gives, it is dead decoration. His chapel at Exeter College 
and his restorations at Ely are instances in point. Nor 
has he been happier in the figure-sculpture with which 
he sometimes completes the effect. To those who know 
what has been done in this sphere of art, the Pulpit of 
Westminster Abbey is a melancholy specimen : surrounded 
by characterless Apostles, and fronted with a medallion 
(by Mr. A. Munro) as painful to look at as to criticize. 
The Westminster School column supplies, in its sculptural 
details, a similar example. We are aware that these bad 
sculptures are not modelled by Mr. Scott ; we believe 
that they are often the production of firms which turn out 
architectural art by the lot, as per order ; but, in justice 
to him, the unfortunate effect which they have exercised 
over his designs must be noticed; and we trust that in 
selecting the artists who shall work with him on the Al- 
bert Cross, a more judicious choice will .be made. Even 



284 ESSAYS ON ART 

those admirers of Gothic — and there are many — who would 
join with us in inability to recognize original power in this 
fashionable architect, will agree that excellence in the sculp- 
tural portions may do much towards a satisfactory monu- 
ment. It should be, however, a not less important matter 
in the eyes of those who entertain a high conception of his 
skill. Not only must the figure-work inevitably be the 
central point of interest in the Albert Cross, but it will also 
inevitably be the arbiter of the whole effect— rfor triumph or 
for defeat. For sculpture is too powerful an art to subside 
into mere ornament. It must either kill, or vivify. 

April : 1863 

II 

In speaking of the Albert Cross, we have hitherto touched 
lightly upon the figure-sculpture with which it will be deco- 
rated. The style adopted for this must be a point of the 
highest importance, from its bearing on the success of the 
work : but until Mr. Scott's design be published, it is impos- 
sible to discuss it in detail. Two hopes we shall, mean- 
while, venture to entertain, — that the monument may not be 
planned for a statue placed between four piers, and within 
a large open chamber at the base, — and that the sculpture, 
whatever its amount, may be of the best quality the country 
can produce. Our reason for the first is, that a treatment like 
that of the Scott Monument at Edinburgh, or, still worse, 
that of the unfortunate Tower of S. Jacques in the line of 
the new Rue Rivoli at Paris, is a contradiction in stone to 
the essential idea of all tower-like buildings ; — placing the 
greatest weight on the points of least apparent strength, 
rendering awkward or unstructural expedients for support 



THE ALBERT CROSS 285 

necessary, and suggesting that we see the fragment of a 
cruciform cathedral, which has been eased of nave, choir, 
and transepts, by the efforts of the Liberation Society. On 
the reasons for the second hope, we now wish to say a few 
words to those who are jealous for the glory of English art, 
and see in the Albert Cross the elements of a great failure 
— or a great success. 

An indefinite idea is afloat, that architectural sculpture 
differs in kind from what, in opposition to it, might be 
called domestic or ornamental sculpture. Whilst the pseudo- 
classical styles prevailed, the phrase probably implied that 
figures and bas-reliefs intended to form part of a building 
should be worked out in a severer manner, as to subject 
and execution, than if they were to take their place in a 
collection. Since what seems to us the more rational re- 
sumption of the Gothic styles, architectural sculpture has, 
however, been understood in a sense which, until lately, has 
gone far to neutralize the effect of our modern Gothic 
buildings. A few words will explain how this has taken 
place. Modern Gothic was, in its beginning, like the Lom- 
bard itself from which it was originally developed, essentially 
an imitative style. In the hands of Woodward, Butterfield, 
Street, Burges, Waterhouse, and others not yet so well 
known, it is rapidly passing from this first phase into an 
architecture as closely adapted to our wants as that of the 
thirteenth century to mediaeval requirements. But there has 
hitherto been a tendency, from which few of our architects 
have been able to free themselves, to treat the details in an 
imitative manner ; although it will be familiar to many of 
our readers that important steps to a true and living revival 
have been taken by all those who deserve to be classed as 
artists. They have been aided in this way by the admirable 
and devoted efforts of a great writer, and, finally, by that 



286 ESSAYS ON ART 

aid without which nothing of high excellence can be ob- 
tained in architecture, the all-important co-operation of 
intelligent workmen, carrying out with a freedom and a 
delicacy worthy of the best times the ideas of the designer. 
Hence, in the lesser details of decoration, amongst many 
inevitable instances of failure, we see already a high success 
which (as in the case of the famous Museum at Oxford) has 
provoked a corresponding energy of censorious criticism. 
This is always the fate, as it is the sign, of originality. But 
in the loftier region of sculpture (which must be held almost 
always to include the representation of animated life), many 
causes have combined to retain us in a false mediaeval 
bondage. The low technical state of the art in England 
— the too prevalent fancy to reproduce subjects from an- 
cient mythology, — with the natural result of these things, a 
deep-seated popular ignorance and apathy, have united with 
our natural sympathy for what are imagined romantic ages, 
to render us blindly, and we are compelled to add, feebly, 
obsequious to the forms of old Gothic statuary. Because 
the sentiment which inspired the workmen of Lincoln was 
exquisite, or the invention shown by the designers of Wells 
powerful, w^e take them as models, not for these qualities, 
which are simply inimitable, but for what is little better 
than mechanical parody. Because in the mediaeval times 
the human figure was imperfectly and rudely rendered, w^e 
are satisfied with work which has almost all their ignorance, 
with hardly an atom of their inspiration. 

We should not think it needful to notice, in these terms 
of condemnation, sculpture which rarely professes to be by 
artists, if the evil were not one which, as the renovated 
Gothic style makes daily progress, threatens to be the most 
serious stumbling-block in the road of its practical triumph. 
But whilst those trained in the classical era can reasonably 



THE ALBERT CROSS 287 

ridicule such carving as that of the lions and the St. George 
on the Westminster Column, or the many disappointing 
saints and scripture subjects in our noble new churches, it 
is necessary to state emphatically, that such sculpture as 
this is false to the real requirements of Gothic architecture. 
It has been submitted to, because, in this province, we are 
still under the bonds of mechanical imitation which in the 
architecture at large we are rapidly leaving, — and because, 
in the existing state of the art, sculpture is accepted by the 
nation as a necessity, not regarded with intelligent eyes as 
a source of elevated pleasure. If it were not so, we cannot 
understand how any one who had a voice in passing the 
estimates would have endured the figures which, manu- 
factured by the dozen as they turn out idols for the 
African trade in Birmingham, decorate the Houses of Par- 
liament. These are not, indeed, worse than the average, 
but we quote them as familiar examples. Anything angular 
in the folds, and loaded with ornaments, seems to satisfy the 
easy conditions of modern Gothic carving; we have even 
seen specimens which appeared to be magnified missal- 
designs executed in relief. Such work is as false to the 
true spirit of Gothic as the composition Caryatides on the 
Vestry of the St. Pancras church are to the true spirit of 
Athenian architecture. Let the reader think for a moment 
of the thought and labour which Phidias bestowed on every 
square inch of the Parthenon marbles, — how he summed 
up here the leading religious and political traditions of the 
country, — with what exquisite care he carried out every 
detail ; and then turn to the dolls in stone which fill the 
niches of the Palace, without truth, or interest, or character. 
It will be a useful lesson in architectural sculpture. 

It is in considering this form of the art something distinct 
and antiquarian, something which may be. safely entrusted 



288 ESSAYS ON ART 

to hap-hazard carvers who have received no proper training 
in art, that the error seems to lie. Nothing can be simpler 
than the real laws of the subject. What was true for the 
Greek styles is true for the Gothic ; in each, what is 
required is simply and solely the best possible sculpture. 
Except for the imaginative incongruity in the associations 
which it rouses, the frieze of the Parthenon, and the glorious 
groups of the pediments, would be in keeping with the 
severe loveliness of Lincoln Cathedral, or the majestic 
splendours of Rheims. What speciality belongs to archi- 
tectural sculpture, technically considered, lies in the close 
observance which, from its immobility of place, it requires 
to the material laws of effect. These have been analyzed 
by Sir C. Eastlake in a paper, printed originally in the third 
Report of the Commissioners on the Fine Arts (1844), and 
since republished. And to the study of those who are 
interested in our subject we strongly recommend this essay, 
which, within the compass of a few pages, defines the laws 
of effect in sculpture with equal taste and knowledge. The 
remarks on works in high relief are especially worthy of 
attention, as this style, too much, perhaps, to the exclusion 
of bas-relief, prevails not only in its most proper situation, 
namely, on the exterior of our Gothic structures, but within- 
side on fonts and pulpits, where the light is rarely adequate 
to its due display. We conjecture that the favour shown to 
the high relief arises partly from a greater facility in obtain- 
ing thus a certain effect without the more careful design 
and modelling required in the flatter styles, partly from 
its frequency in the original Gothic, which did not fully 
recognize the finer laws of sculpture observed by the 
ancients. Excellent examples, however, of low relief exe- 
cuted during the best mediaeval periods may be found 
in some of the ivory carvings exhibited at South Ken- 



THE ALBERT CROSS. 289 

sington, which we trust will not have been lost upon our 
artists. 

Sculpture is indeed so difficult an art that the most gifted 
and intelligent nation can never expect to possess much 
excellence in it at any given period. This, however, is 
no reason whatever why we should be satisfied without ex- 
cellence. Should this not be forthcoming, we must be 
content to wait for better days, as we do in case of the 
other imaginative arts, which no one thinks can be had 
to order. Mediocre carving is much worse than mediocre 
poetry. It is probably true that but little of our recent 
architectural sculpture, for the reasons just given, is of high 
merit. Yet, even in this field of art, we may apply to our 
age the words which Tacitus employed with a wider mean- 
ing — Non adeo virtutum sterile seculum^ ut non et bona 
exempla prodiderit. We fervently hope that the Albert 
Cross may supply another instance. 

May: 1863 

III 

The author has left the two preceding papers as they 
originally stood, although what has subsequently been al- 
lowed to come to light in regard to the Albert Cross does 
not support the hopes above expressed. Whether we look 
at the structure, the sculpture, or the decorations, we see 
everywhere adverse omens which it is impossible to neglect, 
because they are given by the former works of a majority 
among the artists employed. If criticism can have any 
effect in regard to the work, it should speak out now, before 
the evil is irremediable and the disappointment final. 

Without entering here on the larger question of Mr. 
Gilbert Scott's rank amongst our Gothic architects, beyond 

u 



290 ' ESSAYS ON ART 

expressing the opinion (resting upon examination of his 
work) that his style wants originaHty and imagination, it 
is indisputable that he has had but little practice in that 
species of ornamental designing of which the Cross will be 
one of the most elaborate examples ever yet attempted. 
Yet, without high natural capacity and much acquired skill, 
how can we have success in so difficult a work, unless the 
architect were favoured with that miraculous assistance of 
which the Gothic legends tell us ? Much as it is to be re- 
gretted, there are no signs of such assistance at present. Not 
an "Eleanor Cross" at all, in the sense always hitherto ex- 
pressed by the words, Mr. Scott's monument has the air of 
being a highly magnified form of the Italian canopy tomb, 
such as may be seen in its most finished examples at Verona. 
Even the famous Scala monuments in that city are a little too 
large for this form of design, which, by its structural not less 
than its decorative features, is properly suited only for the 
common scale of mediaeval tombs within churches. But Mr. 
Scott's cross takes this pattern, and enlarges it about twelve- 
fold in cubical dimensions : literally extending a canopy into 
a steeple. As, however, the laws of matter are not subject to 
a similar extension, the mode of construction which suits the 
canopy, fails in the spire. That opening which at Verona 
was cut from a single stone, in the Albert Cross has the 
span of a cathedral arch ; and as the piers could not with- 
stand the outward thrust of four such arches, loaded with a 
hundred feet of steeple, it is stated that an iron framework, 
passing up at each angle, and tied together above the crown 
of the vault, aided by a fifth column thrust awkwardly by 
an afterthought beneath the canopy, will in fact do the work 
of support. We know that some structural deceptions must 
be admitted in all architecture ; but they become dangerous 
to efi'ect (if not to stabiUty) when carried out on so vast a 



THE ALBERT CROSS 29 1 

scale, and, as in this case, are at the same time obviously 
required and elaborately concealed. We can take pleasure 
in a small and visible artifice (as the pendants of a Tudor 
vault), or we can ignore an important but invisible artifice 
(as the timber upper-roof which keeps such a vault from 
expanding) ; but where the eye demands a source of struc- 
tural support which it cannot see, it is impossible to avoid 
one of the worst faults which can be committed in archi- 
tecture — the impression of insecurity. But this is a natural 
result, if our estimate of where the architect's abilities are 
limited be correct. In all the arts, want of imagination will 
always be found accompanied by want of practical insight. 
Nor is this surprizing ; for imagination is precisely that 
quality by which the inner fitness of things, propriety, and 
harmony, are perceived. 

Leaving the general design, it is with much regret that 
we observe certain signs of want of fitness, propriety, and 
insight in the details, so far as the scheme has been 
made public. It is indeed impossible yet to speak as to 
the exact style in which the lofty spire will be carried out, 
and any judgment as to the distinctly architectural ornaments 
in which it abounds must follow the reader's general esti- 
mate of Mr. Scott's skill in these matters. Fair work, though 
rarely inventive or really fine work, with much that is com- 
monplace, maybe found in his buildings ; and it is therefore 
still allowable to indulge in a moderate hope as to this fea- 
ture of the monument. The same criticism may apply to the 
paintings, mosaics, and inlayings, of which mention has been 
made. Yet here it must be added, that the bronze or gilded 
metal which the design exhibited, copiously distributed over 
the exterior, are open to the same objections on the side of 
common sense which bear on the main structure. In our 
rainy region, as the pedestals of our statues 'are apt to show, 

u 2 



292 ESSAYS ON ART 

the gradual corrosion of the metal produces promment and 
ineffaceable discolourations. These are less important in 
case of a statue, but would tell with fatal effect when the 
bright green of copper rust competes with coloured marbles 
or glass-work. Again, there are not many marbles (and 
those, also, little studied hitherto in England) which appear 
able to resist our climate without a rapid loss of polish. 
The surface has already disintegrated in the serpentine 
disks, for example, put up in London during the last fifteen 
years : as the Purbeck shafts have perished, even within our 
cathedrals. In any case, the foulness of the London atmo- 
sphere, we fear, will soon disfigure the coloured decora- 
tions ; not merely obscuring all alike, but leaving the more 
durable or vivid portions standing out like patches of 
colour among dirt. The truth is, that the Cross is an Italian 
design, imported whole into Hyde Park. It wants that first 
and last thing in architecture, appropriateness. It fails, not 
because much in it is copied from older sources — for in all 
architecture copying holds a great place — but because it is 
unmiaginative copying, and hence neither fused into harmony 
with itself, nor appropriate to its situation. Imagination is 
the vital quality in art ; and the want of it will always be 
found to resolve itself into want of intelligence. 

IV 

We have, however, as yet touched only on the lighter 
grounds for apprehension which beset this great work. 
Sculpture, from its direct appeal to human feeling and in- 
tellect, is invariably, by a natural law, the governing element 
in any building which introduces it, even sparely. But 
sculpture forms the principal feature in the Albert Cross ; 
and it is sculpture, further, employed on subjects as lofty 



THE ALBERT CROSS 293 

and as difficult as any artists have tried to deal with, since 
the days when Phidias carved the religion of Athens upon 
the Parthenon. But on what English sculpture now is, the 
writer is hardly aware of a single dissentient opinion. It is 
true that every patron, or little clique of friends, have their 
own sculptor or two, whom they except from the common 
sentence of contempt and censure. And we have taken 
pains to show, not by unsupported epithets of praise or 
blame, but by proofs resting on a careful examination of all 
works within reach, and examples which cannot be set aside 
without violence to natural fact, that only four or five men, 
within the last few years (nor, as the art is situated in 
England, is the number small,) have given authentic claims 
to rank as sculptors in the high, strict, and (we may add) prac- 
tical sense of the word. Let us here take a brief glance at the 
best of our modern practitioners. Flaxman and Wyatt, who 
rank as the glories of sixty years since, the first through ten- 
derness and inventiveness of design, the other by virtue of 
a very few works of great beauty and finish — with Chantrey, 
who, throwing away great opportunities in exchange for 
money and fashion, became the conspicuous pseudo-success 
of the age, fall beyond the period of this survey. Chantrey 
must, however, be noticed as the founder of that coarse and 
careless style in modeUing and execution which — occasion- 
ally effective in his hands — when more or less followed by 
Noble, Weekes, Marshall Wood, the two Messrs. Adams, and 
(latterly) Macdowell in our own day — has gone far to destroy 
the credit of English sculpture on the continent. To pro- 
ceed : Watson, who wasted the best years of his life as an 
executant for other men, left a few pieces which unite lofty 
feeling to singular dignity of line. Behnes we have else- 
where attempted to characterize at some length ; and it 
may be here enough to note, that much of his ability in 



294 ESSAYS ON ART 

busts has been preserved by his pupil, Butler. Foley, 
who does not seem to us equal to these artists in treating 
a head, and who, like Behnes, has not been conspicuous 
for poetically-creative faculty, has a truly sculptor-like com- 
mand over human form, manages his designs with great 
taste, and, it is to be hoped and expected, will not suffer 
his present well-earned popularity to detract from the singu- 
larly conscientious execution of his work. He is also the 
only living sculptor in England who has shown power to 
model the horse. Of Gibson's work the writer has not 
examined sufficient specimens to justify attempting a general 
estimate. If judged by such pieces as the large allegorical 
group in one of the rooms contiguous to the Lords' Cham- 
ber at Westminster, by the Peel in the Abbey, or the portrait- 
statue of Her Majesty exhibited a few years since, it would 
be impossible to speak favourably, whether of the idea, the 
modelling, or the execution of his sculpture. If the Venus 
and Cupid of 1862 (putting aside the colouring), or the 
Yotmg Hunter of 1851, be taken as the standard, the 
sculptor will rank with those ^vho have shown a fair know- 
ledge of form, and a considerable sense of grace, although 
rather that grace which belongs to external elegance, than 
that higher and deeper kind which springs from the work- 
ings of a " beautiful soul." These gifts he has, however, 
consecrated so liberally to the unintellectual reproduction 
of the Graeco-Roman mythology, that his art has little hold 
on actual life, and (as was curiously shown in case of the 
statues exhibited in 1862) commands no sympathy from the 
contemporary mind. One must, in this case, regret a real 
gift and a remarkable industry misapplied. The treasures 
of the Vatican, admirable as guides, are fatal as models. 

With Woolner's work the writer is more fully acquainted 
than with Gibson's, having watched his career from an 



THE ALBERT CROSS 295 

early stage to the time when he has reached acknowledg- 
ment as entitled to rank with our best artists. This rank 
is due to poetical invention combined with power of life- 
like resemblance ; and, on the executive side of the art, to 
thorough mastery of the human form, with unusual com- 
mand over the practical processes of modelling and carving. 
The sculptor's group of two children, exhibited in 1862, 
another group of a mother and child, and a bronze figure 
of Puck, may be specified as examples of the first quality 
named : of the second, a series of busts, some of them 
already widely known, Mr. A. Tennyson, Sir J. Brooke, 
Professor Sedgwick, Mr. D. Sassoon, Mr. Carlyle, Mr. 
Cobden, Mr. Gladstone, and other heads which would 
have baffled less mature powers. Mr. Woolner's success in 
dealing with modern dress has been already noticed ; the 
imaginative skill he has shown here is of particular value in 
regard to memorial-statues of our contemporaries. The 
writer had, indeed, framed the above estimate of Woolner's 
place in our sculpture without acquaintance with more than 
his name ; but having since been honoured with his friend- 
ship, he has always felt bound to submit Woolner's work to 
the utmost rigour of judgment which he is capable of apply- 
ing, in order to escape those misleading influences of per- 
sonal regard of which patronage has, at all times, afforded 
too many examples. On this account, also, he adds the 
following judgment, extracted from a very able criticism of 
British Sculpture which appeared, some years since, in one 
of the leading magazines : — " In portraiture we are not 
acquainted with any works which, for consummate study 
and art, for life and power, can at all stand beside Woolner's. 
The labour which he expends upon his busts is out of all 
proportion to that of other men, but not out of proportion 
to the effect produced : it is labour of the brain as well as 



296 ESSAYS ON ART 

the hand ; exquisite art as well as determined study and 
finish. His modelling of flesh in all its delicate niceties 
may well be termed perfect, and is indeed carried so far 
that nothing but the real intellect and fire of his work 
would suffice to sustain it. With less of these highest 
qualities in combination, it would be overfinish ; these keep 
it in its place, and preserve it from transcending the bounds 
of true sculptural art." 

Let us briefly recapitulate the elements which are es- 
sential to success in sculpture. Taken roughly, in natural 
order, these might be (i) imagination, representing force 
of intellect and of feeling, and under which will come 
most markedly power of poetical invention, whether 
exhibited by forcible work or, as suits sculpture better, by 
figures embodying grace and reserved passion; (2) power 
of characterization, which calls into play the former 
gifts within a narrower field, and exerts them under the 
direction of distinctive interest in living human creatures ; 
(3) knowledge of form, both in itself and as required by 
sculpture — including not only mastery over the mysteries of 
curve and plane, truthfulness in surface, and the special 
adaptations or conventionalities which separate sculpture 
from the other arts of design, but also the sense of beauty 
in general outline, of light and shade in mass, and all that 
belongs to sculptural propriety ; lastly (4) executive faculty, 
a rare and difficult attainment, to deal with the actual mar- 
ble, or, in case of bronze, to adapt the model to the pecu- 
liar conditions of metal. These are a severe series of tests, 
although none can be omitted ; we hope we shall have some 
readers who will have the courage to apply them to the 
leading or the fashionable sculpture of England, with perfect 
indifference to any previous opinion or judgment (the 
writer's included), and frame their estimate accordingly. 



THE ALBERT CROSS 297 

It must be remembered that this Essay is throughout on 
Monumental Sculpture, and that a few artists, rather of pro- 
mise than of commanding merit, with some very much the 
reverse, have been omitted from our review. Grouping, 
then, the men named above together, a vast mass of modern 
sculpture remains — including most of what satisfies the two 
chief divisions of fashionable or mercantile patronage — 
which we may spare ourselves here the unpleasant task of 
particularizing by the names of its producers. They will be 
found by those who care for the writer's estimate scattered 
through our pages. But we shall attempt to define what we 
think the bad side of this art in a few words which may 
explain why w^e must call it such. Reversing the conditions 
of success just enumerated — want of imagination, want of 
character, ignorance of form, inability to carve or model 
finely, more or less must be the marks of indifferent sculpture. 
They are precisely the marks which have been for years at- 
tributed to the great majority of our monumental works, when 
they have been criticized at all, as in the House of Com- 
mons. Within these general limits we may discern three 
main branches : (i) that which has been already noticed as 
the corrupt school of Chantrey, which tries for effect by an 
imitation of his " generalized," or as it would be more cor- 
rectly called, his slovenly mode of modelling and carving ; 
(2) that more miscellaneous class of work, in which imitations 
of the antique, or sometimes of modern dress and subjects, 
predominate. These classes of work are marked by clumsi- 
ness and immobility. *' Breathing marble " is the last word 
that one would think of applying to them. A reaction from 
the first class, though unhappily not a healthy reaction, has 
produced the third, which is a bad copy of the modern 
French or Italian " picturesque " style. As this style, at its 
best, is the one most remote from the technical conditions 



298 ESSAYS ON ART 

of sculpture, and, as such, has always appeared in an age of 
decadence, so this third class, imitating it unskilfully, might 
be ranked the lowest. It is characterized by theatrical 
showiness, spasmodic action, and slovenly pretence. 

As we have been throughout speaking, not of men of pro- 
mise, but of sculptors who have formed and matured their 
style, there is no more ground for doubting that what they each 
and all henceforth design will be generally similar in quality 
to what they have already designed, than in the case of litera- 
ture. Tennyson will be Tennyson, Tupper Tupper, to the 
end of the chapter. And when, therefore, we have added, 
that the list of sculptors selected for the Albert Memorial 
lies (so far as we are able to frame an estimate) almost 
entirely within the three latter classes, with one or two 
mere architectural decorators, whilst, on the other hand, the 
subjects required are of the first order in difficulty, — we are 
already not far from the poet's, Lasciate ogni speranza.^ 

To those who care for Enghsh art, or for the advance of 
the sound and honest artist, or for the great memory to be 
thus honoured, or for the sympathies and feelings which go 
with the monument, nothing can be more melancholy than 
to confess the possibility of a failure. Yet the rigid laws of 
fact seem to render it not improbable. Better far to leave 
the Memorial as it now is, a vast pyramid of clay, than to 
perpetuate commonplace in architecture, or enshrine poverty 
of art in marble. Otherwise, there is danger that this will 
be another case o^ tht post eventum, credidimus, 

* To those who know the enormous difficulties of a colossal statue, 
and the demands which it makes on the artist for the highest knowledge 
and style, the choice of M. Marochetti for the figure of the Prince will 
seem simply disastrous. 

July: 1865 



THACKERAY IN THE ABBEY 299 



THACKERAY IN THE ABBEY 

What to do with Westminster Abbey and the monu- 
ments in it has been a question debated at least since the 
revival of our interest in ancient architecture. No one 
disputes that it is, if not overcrowded with statues, yet 
full to repletion, or that the more recent monuments, 
more or less, interfere with ecclesiastical and architectural 
propriety. But of the plans proposed for dealing with the 
question none appears to be satisfactory, or to have com- 
mended itself to public feeling. It would be equally 
barbarous to add a row of figures between the columns, as 
was once suggested, or to expel all modern work, and 
" restore " the Gothic shrines and canopies, in accordance 
with the wishes of what one might call the extreme-pointed 
party. The first scheme would put the last touch of ruin 
to the effect of the building ; the latter would be not less 
destructive to the unrivalled historical value and imaginative 
associations which consecrate the tombs of our ancient 
princes. Any one who, adequately acquainted with me- 
diaeval work, examines the process of renewing it in our 
cathedrals, — from the restoration of Salisbury sixty years 
since, to the restoration of Lincoln and Ely, still proceed- 
ing, will cry out with Mr. Ruskin, Restoration is destruction. 
Hardly better is the proposal to remove the mass of later 
monuments and place them within what has been somewhat 
affectedly called a Campo Santo, If this be a Gothic build- 



300 ESSAYS ON ART 

ing, the existing discrepancy of styles will reappear ; as 
nothing can look worse than the later monuments within 
the cloister at Pisa, on this account ; if it be in some Italian 
style it will itself be a most unfit accompaniment to the 
Abbey. Besides, tasteless as the memorials often are, they 
are more or less adapted to their sites ; whilst it is difficult 
to imagine the wall-tombs and the single figures so arranged 
in a cloister as not to expose still more their general intrinsic 
feebleness. Lastly, such a removal would, in many men's 
minds, do away with the distinction which, whether deserved 
or not, burial within the Abbey was intended to confer. 
There is, perhaps, something rather natural than heroic 
about Nelson's famous exclamation : but at any rate The 
Campo Saiito or a Peerage ! would not replace it. 

In short, the plan of gradually withdrawing a few monu- 
ments (should this course be legally or morally possible) 
commemorative of names to which Time has not proved 
propitious, partly in order to clear the main architectural 
features of the building, partly to find space for that very 
select and first-rate number who should henceforth be alone 
admitted, seems the only one feasible It is needless to 
observe that such an operation requires the greatest discre- 
tion, and must be left, in each case, to justify itself. What a 
curious field for speculation does this suggestion open ! how 
much so-called greatness, genius,'and what not, would vanish 
from that Palace of Truth ! — how singular the contrast be- 
tween the contemporaiy eulogies of a Prime Minister, even, 
or a poet, and the voice of history, commanding some marble 
of " heroic size " to come down, and take a lower room ! 

After a fair time. Lord to the cloister^ we might fancy 

hearing it, and Byron to the Abbey — only, not in Thorvald- 
sen's feeble effigy. This would be a worthy subject for a 
new Meditation among the Tombs, had we an Addison to 



THACKERAY IN THE ABBEY 30I 

imagine it ; but our Addison is dead, and we may wait fifty 
years before truth, undismayed by fashion, and deHcate 
pathos, and value for intellectual refinement, and the sense 
of cultivated humour, are sufficiently alive once more in 
England to impersonate themselves in another Thackeray. 

It is, however, with Thackeray's image that we are now 
concerned. When it was announced, a year ago, that the 
bust for the Abbey was placed in the hands of Baron Maro- 
chetti, great doubt was felt, whether the choice was judi- 
cious. Nothing is rarer than for an artist to succeed in the 
portraiture of any man not of his own nation. No English 
portrait of Napoleon would be accepted in France ; and who 
ever saw a foreign picture of Nelson which was endurable ? 
The sculptor had, moreover, been tried in this particular 
field, and had signally failed : witness his Wellington and 
Victoria at Glasgow, or his Prince Albert at Perth, to which 
several more might be added. As, however, it was especially 
put forward by the Committee that M. Marochetti " had the 
advantage of being Thackeray's intimate friend," it was 
hoped, we presume, by the subscribers, that all sentiments 
of honour to the dead would combine with what power the 
sculptor could brmg to his aid, and result in a vivid likeness, 
embodied in a truly careful and artist-like work. 

The bust has been placed in a tolerable light, and we are 
now able to judge how far these hopes have been reahzed, 
or how far those natural limitations of success have had 
their way, over which no man can triumph, however com- 
mittees desire it, or fashion endeavour to suppress failure. 
A few lines would, indeed, be enough to deal with a single 
head of the ordinary kind. But this is not quite the case 
here. The Abbey is our Pantheon ; it is a national concern. 
We are all interested in what is done to change or improve 
its appearance ; in this sense every EnglisJiman may say of 



302 ESSAYS ON ART 

himself what Dean Stanley is reported to have said at a 
recent meeting — " Westmonasteriensis sum; Westmonaste- 
riense nihil a me alienum puto^'* The intrinsic badness of the 
sculpture within the Abbey, and its injurious effect on the 
look of the building, are grievances of long standing and 
pubHc notoriety. Architects and sculptors cannot fail now 
to be well aware that they work under the surveillance of a 
strong popular feeling upon this subject. There is a kind 
of implied compact, that if more monuments are to be 
allowed, they must be nothing short of first-rate. Non-success 
therefore, in such circumstances, should the facts disclose 
it, must inevitably be more closely scanned than when the 
interests involved are not of a national order. 

Thackeray's features are so well-known that we may, we 
think, anticipate that they will be before the reader's remem- 
brance. They were not such as would have presented an 
easy task, even to an intimate friend and an able sculptor. 
Quiet power and pensive sweetness were the two chief 
elements in the face ; these were, however, modified in 
some degree by the active, searching character of the eye, 
and by a certain nervous quickness in the region of the lips, 
betraying that the great painter of our manners possessed 
that gift of humour and sarcasm without which he could 
not have painted us so truly. The forehead was a noble 
piece of the modelling of nature, full of fine curves and 
lines and subtly-combined planes of surface ; the nose, from 
the day when the young writer dubbed himself Michel 
Angelo to his last playful sketch of himself, we all know was 
the subject of Thackeray's own amusing humour. The 
accident was so identified with the man that it almost 
became characteristic of him ; no one could wish him other- 
wise ; Lamb would have said he must have been born so, 
if he had not been made so; it was one of the little 



THACKERAY IN THE ABBEY 303 

blemishes which make a face dearer to friendship. Let us 
add, as a minor though still a not unimportant touch, that 
no more thorough specimen of the Englishman of our cen- 
tury existed than was presented by Thackeray in his bearing 
and dress. He was classical, as Moliere or Aristophanes 
were classical, by virtue of high genius employed on con- 
temporary subjects, not in any way by look or manner. 
The image of such a head, modelled to occupy the place 
of honour near Addison, called certainly for no common 
skill, and would at any rate deserve to engage the greatest 
amount of diligence, finish, and taste on the part of any 
one who should undertake it. 

Disregarding questions of abstract taste, let us ask simply 
how far this bust fulfils its purpose 1 how far is it a true 
memorial of that countenance and character which we have 
above attempted to sketch 1 The impression it has given 
us is one which we shall be very glad to see reversed by the 
opinion — when it has been calmly formed — not of those 
too nearly interested in the management of the memorial, 
but of Thackeray's friends, and of those at large who knew 
him. We do not mean that it is a complete failure, such 
as most of the busts, for example, by Messrs. Noble, Theed, 
Wood, and Adams, or even M. Marochetti's own life-size 
statues, appear to us. The sculptor has reached a certain 
point. Thackeray's features were not only subtly, but 
strongly, marked ; and we have before us a superficial 
likeness of those points in his face which would be re- 
membered by a casual visitor. But we must ask for no 
more. Thackeray is not here in the intellectual modelling 
of the forehead, or the keen insight of the eye; the mouth 
wants the graciousness of his smile, and the quick mobility 
in which one saw his satire. These, however, were the 
points which marked the man, and these are the province 



304 ESSAYS ON ART 

of the artist ; to give the general contour is next to nothing. 
It might be enough to sum up by saying that this is a weak, 
external kind of portrait ; that, despite the advantages of 
the artist and the importance of the work, it no way rises 
above his ordinary level, and has been turned out in what 
appears a perfectly offhand and careless manner ; that it con- 
veys about as much of a likeness as an amateur manages to 
secure — a kind of art of which M. Marochetti's always re- 
minds us. But in this instance it may be worth while to give 
such grounds for our criticism as can be offered without the 
aid of a print. To gain the amount of likeness specified, 
the visitor will find that a double process has been cleverly 
followed. The forms of the salient features — mouth, nose, 
and forehead — with the forward set of the chin, have been 
coarsely exaggerated ; the minor details have been alto- 
gether suppressed. Nature generally puts her fine intellects 
into a corresponding framework ; and in a man who had 
reached even the years at which this great genius was pre- 
maturely taken from us, all the region of the forehead 
above and around the eye, and all that lies round the 
mouth, are carved and channelled with the memorials of a 
thousand thoughts and impulses : — In the beautiful phrase 
which Wordsworth applied to the mountains, they look 
"familiar with forgotten years"; they record a life's ex- 
periences. Only the detail about the eye differs greatly 
from that about the lips in quality; the former being mainly 
a tense surface over bone, whilst the lips have of course a 
much greater softness and mobility of texture. One hardly 
likes to dwell on these intimate points in the case of such 
a man as Thackeray ; it seems like over-familiarity towards 
the dead ; and with what tender and faithful care should 
they have been worked out and perpetuated by the true 
friend and true artist ! What, turning now from nature 



THACKERAY IN THE ABBEY 305 

to art, is Sculpture unless she can render these things 1 
But from this bust they are absent. M. Marochetti has not 
given the vital details we have imperfectly enumerated ; he 
has not marked the distinction between the different quali- 
ties of texture. Bone and flesh are much the same in his 
art. All in the bust are smooth, rounded surfaces, which 
follow each other like the waves in a bad sea-piece. This 
gives a superficial air of finish ; but it is at the sacrifice 
of truth to nature ; it is just the quality, as we have said, 
of an amateur's work ; he suppresses and smooths because 
he cannot model and complete. We make no extraordinary 
demand on a sculptor when we require the qualities which 
are here neglected. " These conditions are so elementary," 
said the great French critic, M. Planche, of the sculptor before 
us, "that I am at a loss to comprehend how M. Marochetti 
has neglected them. We have here no question of style ; 
nothing beyond the mere alphabet of art. To break these 
conditions is the same as to be ignorant of spelling." 
Twenty years have passed by since M. Planche wrote, but 
they have brought with them no improvement. 

It would be easy to carry our analysis further, and point 
out in detail why the eyes in this bust, despite the unsculp- 
tural trick by which the eyeballs are indicated, are without 
light or vivacity; with what a passing glance to the laws of 
natural form the chin has been placed on the neck, and the 
neck on the shoulders ; what negligence of good feehng is 
shown in the naked breast trimmed round in an awkward 
flap, and brought harshly down upon a square pedestal; 
with what slovenliness the hair has been smoothed down, 
and with what zeal every little ruse adopted, by which a 
sculptor can expedite his work at the least labour to 
himself But we think we have given Baron Marochetti 
as full a hearing as the case demands, and, \{ the verdict go 

X 



3o6 ESSAYS ON ART 

against him, it will be upon sufficient proofs of hard and 
undeniable fact. If those who treat taste as a matter of in- 
dividual fancy or unreasoned preference answer them, they 
may justify the work. Something more, however, remains. 
We have hitherto spoken of this bust as a work of art. We 
have now to ask how far it is a fit decoration for the Abbey. 
The sculptor's part, we believe, ends with the white marble 
plinth or base just noticed, which he has decorated in a com- 
monplace way with a sort of double scroll, decidedly Roman 
in character. Below this Mr. Gilbert Scott (the Abbey Archi- 
tect) has put a dark serpentine base cut with a coarsely 
profiled moulding, which, though presumably intended for 
Gothic, is so undetermined in character that we hardly like to 
pronounce it such. Underneath this, again, is a heavy bronze 
bracket, on which the name is inscribed in common Roman 
characters. The reader may almost judge without an en- 
graving what the effect of this singular combination is, and, 
as lovers of Gothic, we are sorry to think of the impression 
it will leave upon men of taste, trained in the classical camp. 
As our wish throughout has been to discuss the question be- 
fore us with reference to fact (upon which we take Taste, in 
the permanent or real sense, to be altogether founded), let 
us add that the unsatisfactory look of the pseudo-Gothic 
pedestal arises, not so much from the want of delicacy and 
finish in the work, or the curious jumble of styles, as from 
the manner in which it has been imagined. Mr. Scott 
seems to have done little but copy, in bronze, one of those 
brackets w^hich the Gothic architects often used to support 
a wall-shaft, when it was not wished to bring the shaft down 
to the pavement. But the solid form which was proper for 
stone, being a material of small tenacity, is, on that very 
ground improper for metal, being a material of great 
tenacity. The bracket, again, which is massive enough to 



THACKERAY IN THE ABBEY 307 

sustain fifty feet of shaft, is idle when it props two feet of 
marble. This again strikes us, to repeat M. Planche's 
terrible phrase, as ignorance of grammar. How differently 
would the mere common workmen of old have dealt with 
their bronze ! How they would have revelled in its ductility, 
and sported with its tenacity ! — In short, if we may alter the 
well-known words of Macaulay, the sculptor and the archi- 
tect have so managed things between them, that they could 
have hardly produced a result less worthy of the occasion. 
We had a right to require a first-class work, both on account 
of Thackeray and the Abbey ; * and the most lenient judg- 
ment, we fear, can in no way reckon this such. If it be 
not for the admission of art quite different in quality, the 
Abbey doors had better not have been reopened. It is no 
honour to the illustrious dead to be thus commemorated. 

*■ From a recent number of the Quarterly Review^ we regret to find 
that the inefficient and slovenly work of which we complain is not con- 
fined to the Abbey. 

"Almost as bad," says a writer in the number for October, 1865, 
" as the destruction of ancient monuments, is the introduction of new 
ones in violent want of keeping with all that surrounds them. Such is 
the extraordinary memorial of the 9th (Queen's Royal) Lancers, which 
covers the wall of a bay on the north side of the nave of Exeter Cathe- 
dral, and which, from its size and obtrusiveness, is necessarily the first 
object to catch the eye of the entering visitor. The design (two mounted 
lancers and two palm-trees — it is by Baron Marochetti) is utterly with- 
out meaning, and is precisely such as a child would draw on a slate." 



X 2 



3o8 ESSAYS ON ART 



NEW PARIS 

How much soever there may be in the existing Government 
of France on which EngHshmen cannot look with satis- 
faction, it cannot be denied that, during the last ten years, 
commercial advances and "strategical exigencies " have, be- 
tween them, given an impulse to architecture in that country 
which has called forth noteworthy results. Even our insular 
vanity, impervious as it is on so many points alike to ridicule 
and to reason, has been lately compelled at once to admire 
much of what has been done in Paris and to give up most of 
what has been done in London. And those who are aware 
of the taste and skill which place the French, in most forms 
of art, really and truly in their favourite position as the 
" leaders of European civilization," and who remember that, 
during the middle ages, they were the greatest and the most 
inventive architects of Christendom, will be ready to believe 
that, amongst many failures or partial successes, they cannot 
have half rebuilt the main streets of their capital without pro- 
ducing much which may make us dissatisfied with Tyburnia 
and Kensington, with what has been done in CromwelljRoad, 
with what is doing in Downing Street, — with what will, we fear, 
be done in Grosvenor Place. We will give but one example 
here, but it shall be a decisive one. It is enough to look 
at their Exhibition Building — at once graceful, massive, ap- 
propriate, and original — and at the huge block which so 
long lingered of our own, and to recognize our superiors. 



NEW PARIS 309 

Whilst, however, we confess all this to the full, we are 
not disposed to hold up the recent works, in Paris and else- 
where, as either thoroughly satisfactory in themselves or as 
models for our instruction. Things during the last ten years 
have been done too rapidly, and on too large a scale, to 
admit of that thoughtful study and careful execution which 
are at the boyom of good work in architecture, as in every- 
thing else. Above all, they are uniformly in a style which, 
treated with whatever skill, is radically inferior in conve- 
nience and in beauty to the true modern Gothic. Already 
it is impossible not to perceive that the limits of the Gallo- 
Italian have been nearly reached. Perhaps the very best of 
the modern houses of Paris, such as those engraved by 
Mr. Fergusson in his invaluable architectural History, are 
amongst those erected at the beginning of the period of re- 
construction. It is impossible to escape the conviction that, 
since that time, the architects, skilful and thorough as they 
are, have been overtasked ; although even a hasty survey 
shows that they rarely produce anything absolutely tame, 
or fall into that mindless commonplace, that fixed and 
deeply-seated clumsiness, which the barbarous builders to 
whom our contractors entrust the new regions of London 
seem as little able to escape from as to be sensible of 

We will name a few noticeable specimens, in the hope 
that readers who happen to visit Paris may be induced to 
examine them, and then, recalling for a moment Belgrave 
Square, or Queen's Gate, or Albert Road, or Westboume 
Terrace — anything and everything, in short, that has been 
built on system in our ugly capital — may ask whether our 
criticism be not only too just. Such are the Restaurant de 
la Belle Gabrielle, the corner house of the Rue Nicolas 
Flamel (elegant), and the Maison Tour (more severe) — all 
instances in the best part of the Rue RivOli. Number 43 



3IO ESSAYS ON ART 

Boulevart de Sebastopol (rive gauche), and the corner house 
of the Rue Reamur and Rue S. Martin, exhibit graceful and 
original treatment of the balcony; number lo in the other 
half of the vSebastopol Boulevart is an instance of the 
felicitous management of pilasters. It would be easy to 
treble our list. Almost everywhere we find some at least 
of what may be called the fundamental principles of domestic 
architecture followed — elegant and varied decoration, indi- 
viduality of design (few houses being absolutely like their 
neighbours), and, so far as strikes the eye, truthful and solid 
construction. Where a space has to be bridged over, as in 
the windows of a shop, the French architect either throws 
an arch at once, which is certainly the most satisfactory 
mode to the eye and the stablest for the building, or he 
makes the upper line of the shop-front flat, and places a 
graceful low window beneath the arch, which then spans 
two stories. In England, we generally have a dead uni- 
formity of ugliness, each house as like all the rest of the 
row as if the very Demon of Monotony had cast them in 
mould; whilst, even in our more elaborate attempts, the 
front wall of a shop almost always appears to rest on sheets 
of plate-glass, the real supports being a couple of thin iron 
columns, which the builder absurdly tries to conceal. Our 
decorations are either absolutely nothing — the bald wall and 
^the square hole — or vary between the eternal triangular 
pediment and bracket -heading, and the diseased efflo- 
rescence of badly-modelled garlands which breaks out in 
the neighbourhood of Queen's Gate or in the Victoria 
Terminus hotel. Of the materials which nature has given 
us we make, in nineteen cases out of twenty, no appreciable 
use whatever. We cannot even bake our excellent clays to 
a lasting surface ; we cannot model the most plastic sub- 
stance on earth into any form but an ill-shaped lump. The 



NEW PARIS 311 

plasterer, in league with the house-painter, then persuades 
us that bricks look gloomy, and forthwith — in place of 
facing the wall with one of the endless varieties of bright 
and durable covering — daubs it with a dismal gray, which 
must henceforth be smeared with white lead every other 
year, like a door or a cupboard. A marble fayade would, 
we believe, in fifty years (and fifty years are the youth of a 
building), prove a cheaper thing than this abominable 
arrangement. 

People in France would not put up with such shabby 
work as this. They prove it in the best possible way, by 
doing the contrary. It is no wonder that their universal 
verdict, when they come to London, should be a condejn- 
nation of its ugliness. Provoking and humiliating as this 
is, or ought to be, to us, it is more humiliating still to be 
forced to allow that the cause is mainly our own want of 
taste and sense in our architecture. For our churches, 
sometimes for our public buildings (as the admirable 
new Assize Courts at Manchester by Mr. Waterhouse, 
we have architects equal to, or even better than, the 
best Frenchmen. If the building speculator never, and 
the private person rarely, employs them for our houses, the 
sole reason is, that they do not care to do so. To confess 
the truth ; from the late Lord Palmerston downwards, we 
love domestic ugliness; we are enchanted with architectural 
commonplace ; we think it a proud boast, fit for a Briton, 
to contrast the cold, angular, and forbidding look of the 
exterior with the comfort inside. Other nations, meanwhile, 
have comfort and beauty too ; for that the taste shown in 
the French dwelling-houses and railway-stations does not 
impair their comfort, the dissatisfied Englishman readily 
confesses, when he compares his inn or terminus with those 
across the water. Indeed, the idea that beauty and comfort 



312 ESSAYS ON ART 

are in any sense opposing or competing qualities is in itself, 
often as we hear it, the simple confession of complacent 
ignorance. It is like fancying that geology is opposed to 
cookery, or that common sense is hostile to the rule of 
three. 

Almost everybody feels the force of this vexatious con- 
trast when he returns from Paris to London ; it is the burden 
of every traveller's story. And we have here dwelt upon it 
because those who have the credit of England at heart 
must wish to see this consciousness of our inferiority in 
domestic architecture utilized for our improvement, not 
idly referred to anything in the materials employed in 
France, or in the Imperial system. Improvement here is, 
strictly, a matter piiblici juris. Every one who builds, or 
allows to be built for him, an ugly house, perpetuates an 
eyesore to annoy or deaden the taste of thousands. And 
that ninety-nine out of every hundred houses recently built 
in London are eyesores is hardly open to denial. On 
the chapter of materials we cannot further enter now. But, 
returning to our more immediate subject, an examination 
of recent French architecture will show that the excel- 
lence of it, so far as it goes, is due to what Governments 
can but remotely influence — the general taste of the people. 
In fact, the least satisfactory things at Paris are precisely 
those which the Administration has undertaken. The Em- 
peror — of whom it is no injustice to say that he is not an 
exception to the old rule that le gout 7nilitaire is naturally 
incompatible with taste in art — has hardly been more fortu- 
nate in the selection of his architects than the House of 
Commons or the Board of Works. Everything, for instance, 
that we have seen by the once celebrated Visconti bears the 
stamp of line, rule, and precedent, rather than of invention 
or feeling. And the completion of the Louvre, Visconti's 



NEW PARIS 313 

main performance, was urged on with such speed, that the 
chance of remedying in the details what was deficient in the 
design was not allowed to that admirably skilful school of 
architectural sculpture which France has so long possessed. 
Some, indeed, of the carving, we have been told, was so 
hasty and indifferent that it was found necessary to remove 
it — an eloquent fact ! When public opinion insists on a 
similar purgation in Trafalgar Square, St. Paul's, the Palace 
of Westminster, and elsewhere, the day of taste will have 
dawned in England. 

The Emperor has not been more successful in two more 
recent structures — the great barrack, Caserne Napoleon, 
behind the Hotel de Ville (that of Prince Eugene, Boulevart 
S. Martin, is better), and the Tribunal of Commerce, now 
building on the Island of the " City." In the barrack we 
have a phenomenon as rare in Paris as it is common with 
us — the old worn-out design where large windows are di- 
vided by stories of meagre pilasters, while the roof has no 
variety in sky-line, and no depth of cornice. The Hotel 
de Commerce is not sufficiently finished to admit of judg- 
ment on the final effect ', but the dome with which it is 
crowned is heavy and inelegant, and nothing can be more 
unlucky than the selection of the style (a kind of Louis 
Quatorze) for the situation. Every one who knows Paris 
will remember the peculiar picturesqueness of the Island. 
From the west, it is the great enlivening feature in the view 
over the Seine. It owes this almost entirely to the fact that 
on it are concentrated nearly all the Gothic buildings of 
Paris — the Sainte Chapelle, Notre Dame, and the round 
conically-roofed towers of the Palais de Justice. With this 
graceful and effective group, taste imperatively required that 
any new building should harmonize ; and it is seriously to 
be regretted that the occasion (which was not unlike that 



314 ESSAYS ON ART 

which has just been similarly dealt with at Montague 
House and the Public Offices) should have been thrown 
away. 

Our notice of this Hotel leads us to the main circum- 
stance which we referred to at the beginning as rendering 
the new architecture of Paris less than thoroughly satisfac- 
tory. Varied and tasteful as it is compared with what we 
have in English towns, it is, as a whole, deficient in force 
and individuality. It wants the pliancy and vigour — in one 
word, the life of the Gothic style. In saying this, we make 
allowance for the peculiar difficulties of designing large 
shop-fronts and rows of private dwelling-houses. Yet we 
think that a walk through new Paris will impress even those 
who, like ourselves, feel painfully at every step our own 
failure in the same class of structures, with a sense of 
want of relief and accent in the street fagades. What the 
French have now almost everywhere adopted is, indeed, 
a style of their own creation — a style dexterously and taste- 
fully developed from what is rather vaguely called Italian, 
but free, in general, from the common-place and the 
unmeaning structural devices (window-triangles, columns, 
pilasters, and the Orders at large) which in England are 
still dominant. The ingenuity and skill with which these 
modifications have been devised, the invention and spirit 
shown in the ornaments, are worthy of all praise. But 
this Gallic style is nevertheless so far limited by its laws, 
and restrained by its antecedents, that it cannot com- 
pete with the Gothic in force and accentuation. It cannot 
allow such variety of design, whether in the apertures, or 
the sky-line (almost the most valuable element in town 
architecture), or the decorations, as its earlier and, we may 
add, its more essentially French rival. Into the ^'battle 
of the styles " we shall not here enter. But we would 



NEW PARIS 315 

venture, with much diffidence, to suggest to the able archi- 
tects who have latterly done so much to beautify France, 
that even an occasional employment of one of the forms of 
Pointed architecture would have a very telling effect in a 
street or a boulevart. We trust it is unnecessary to add 
that, in suggesting this, we do not contemplate the mere 
imitation of their own or of any other ancient examples. 
But the ability with which, as we have indicated, the far less 
pliable and, in our judgment, less vital and truthful " Italian" 
has been modified in France, gives the surest promise that a 
similar result would attend the resumption of Gothic. For 
this, it is easy to see how not only France, but England, 
Italy, and Belgium, would afford motives of inestimable 
value ; and something would of itself enter into it which 
would infallibly bring the style into full accordance with the 
wants and tastes of our own age. In a word, what we 
would plead for in France is a Nineteenth-century Gothic. 
And, for some admirable examples of this — and that equally 
in domestic, civic, and church building — it is a pardonable 
pride to think that we can honestly direct our intelligent 
and high-spirited neighbours to England. 



1S63 _ ^ 

UNIVEESITY 

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